Church News

Church: Miscellaneous Denominations


>> = Important Articles; ** = Major Articles


>>Yearbook Shows Mainline Churches Slip while Pentecostal Churches Sprout (Christian Post, 050401)

**Congregation Leaves UCC after Narrow Vote (Christian Post, 060120)

**Christian group wants to ‘redeem’ US states (WorldNetDaily, 051024)

**Fed-up Christian families moving toward ‘secession’: Group attracts over 700 members in past year as citizens begin transplanting to S. Carolina (WorldNetDaily, 050703)

**Christians look to form ‘new nation’ within U.S.: Same-sex marriage called last straw prompting plan for 1 state to secede (WorldNetDaily, 040524)

**Outpouring for Pope masks Europe’s spiritual crisis (, 050408)

**Cymbala decries division within and among churches (The Baptist Standard, 010201)

On Christian Unity (Touchstone, 950700)

Most U.S. Religious Groups Bar Gay Clergy (Foxnews, 030805)

Church destroyed after ‘gay wedding’ (WorldNetDaily, 031009)

SBC and UCC Debate Controversial Church Ad (Christian Post, 041202)

The Future of Ecumenicalism Lies in Interfaith Dialogue (Christian Post, 050330)

Mainline Churches Pave Road to Joint Communion (Christian Post, 050511)

Christianity taking over planet? (WorldNetDaily, 050428)

Protestant Church Endorses Gay Marriage (Foxnews, 060704)

China Needs a Stronger Messenger: An Appeal to the American Church (Christian Post, 050622)

Church Selects First Woman President (Christian Post, 050726)

NCC Exploiting the Right (American Spectator, 050726)

Printed Matters (Christian Post, 050809)

God’s Calling Not Top Reason for Church Movement, Says Study (Christian Post, 050912)

Barna Book Discusses Pursuit of God Beyond the Local Church (Christian Post, 051010)

Confessing Movement (Wikipedia, 051000)

Homage to the Amish (, 051112)

The flames of hate in Alabama (, 060216)

UCC Loses 97 Members Since Affirming Gay Unions (Christian Post, 060310)

Nation’s 1st ‘gay’ TV network rejects church’s ‘pro-gay’ ad: Homosexual-friendly commercial labeled ‘political,’ violates guidelines – ‘disparaging to another religion’ (WorldNetDaily, 060410)

Multiculturalism: The Next Generation of Churches (Christian Post, 070101)

When multiculturalism is conservative and christian (, 070104)

Multiculturalism: The Next Generation of Churches (Christian Post, 070104)

Mainline Body Embracing New Ways to Do Church (Christian Post, 070130)

UCC President to Speak at Gay Megachurch (Christian Post, 070201)

Megachurch Closed to Biblical No-Nos, Open to Others: Church attracts the trendy, the tech-savvy and controversy (Christian Post, 070219)

Reports of Abuse in Protestant Churches (Christian Post, 070618)

Baptist Trustee Resigns Over Speaking in Tongues (Christian Post, 070622)

Americans’ Confidence in the Church Reaching All-Time Low (Christian Post, 070627)

Survey: Evangelicals Worry Most Over Health of Churches (Christian Post, 070821)

Survey Reveals Which Pastors Get Paid Most (Christian Post, 071002)

A Shocking “Confession” from Willow Creek Community Church (, 071030)

Rick Warren’s Inquisition (WorldNetDaily, 071130)

Russian Church Head Equates Europe’s Loss of Christian Roots to Signing ‘Death Warrant’ (Christian Post, 071207)





>>Yearbook Shows Mainline Churches Slip while Pentecostal Churches Sprout (Christian Post, 050401)


America’s mainline churches suffered a decline in membership while Pentecostal and historic African American churches grew in numbers over the past year, according to the recently released National Council of Churches’ 2005 “Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.”


The yearbook, one of only a few thorough references of all Christian churches – including Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Protestant – available on the market, gauges the general growth trends of single denominations and Christianity as a whole.


According to this year’s statistics, the Catholic Church remained the largest faith group in the U.S. with 67,259,768 members and a growth rate last year of 1.28 percent. The second largest denomination in the U.S. is still the Southern Baptist Convention with 16,439,603 members and a growth rate of 1.18 percent. The United Methodist Church is third largest with a reported membership of 8,251,175 and a growth rate of .002 percent.


Other churches that have continued to grow in 2004 are the Assemblies of God, 2,729,562 members and a growth rate of 1.57 percent; the Episcopal Church, 2,320,221 members and a growth rate of .57 percent; and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,432,795 members and a growth rate of .14 percent.


According to Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner who edited the yearbook for the eighth year, the growth in those denominations can be attributed to the evangelistic mindsets of those groups.


“If you look at the churches that grew the most, they intentionally reach out to bring people in,” explained Dr. Linder, who serves as the NCC Deputy General Secretary for Research and Planning.


Dr. Linder also noted that the churches are more “fitting” to “what people are looking for” in contemporary America, partly due to their urban settings.


On the flipside, the mainline denominations that once dominated the nation’s faith-market continued to lose members – some at alarming rates.


According to the yearbook, the churches that lost members are: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,984,925 members, down 1.05 percent; the Presbyterian Church (USA), 3,241,309 members, down 4.87 percent; The Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), 2,488,936 members, down .95 percent); American Baptist Churches in the USA, 1,433,075 members, down 3.45 percent; and the United Church of Christ, 1,296,652 members, down 2.58 percent.


With the exception of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the mainline churches are known to have moderate to liberal views on theological and social issues.


However, Dr. Linder explained that these churches generally did not lose members over theological issues but rather to old age.


“The make-up of these churches is much older,” said Linder to the Christian Post on Thursday. “So more than these churches losing members to other [denominations], they lost their members to eternity.”


This may also explain why the membership in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches has been rising.


“Younger people tend to shop for churches more,” said Linder. “And they are attracted to the Pentecostal churches” – which she said are sprouting in urban areas.


The 2005 Yearbook, now in its 73rd year, reports on 217 national church bodies with 150 million members in the U.S. Reports include brief church histories and contact information for church leaders. The yearbook also analyzes the financial data from 63 churches representing almost 50 million members and more than $32 billion.


While the statistics are self-reported, there are safety nets established by the NCC data stream that prevent “cooked” numbers, according to Dr. Linder.


The Yearbook is published by Abingdon Press in Nashville, Tenn., and is available for $50 at Included in the cost is a subscription to the “Yearbook Online,” which features regularly updated searchable data.


The following is the list of the top 25 Denominations/Communions as listed by the Yearbook:


1. The Catholic Church - 67,259,768


2. Southern Baptist Convention - 16,439,603


3. The United Methodist Church - 8,251,175


4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - 5,503,192


5. The Church of God in Christ - 5,449, 875


6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. - 5,000,000


7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - 4,984,925


8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. - 3,500,000


9. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) - 3,241,309


10. Assemblies of God - 2,729,562


11. African Methodist Episcopal Church - 2,500,000


12. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America - 2,500,000


13. Progressive National Baptist Convention - 2,500,000


14. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) - 2,488,936


15. Episcopal Church - 2,320,221


16. Churches of Christ - 1,500,000


17. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America - 1,500,000


18. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. - 1,500,000


19. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. - 1,433,075


20. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church - 1,432,795


21. United Church of Christ - 1,296,652


22. Baptist Bible Fellowship International - 1,200,000


23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ - 1,071,616


24. Jehovah’s Witnesses - 1,041,030


25. The Orthodox Church in America - 1,000,000




**Congregation Leaves UCC after Narrow Vote (Christian Post, 060120)


Three congregations decided to leave the United Church of Christ less than a month after it adopted a resolution endorsing same-sex marriage in July 2005. Now, half a year later, the denomination has continued slimming down its member affiliates as the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Toledo, Ohio, became the 66th to disaffiliate, according to The Toledo Blade.


For the past two months, debate and tension heated the pews of the 400-member Pilgrim congregation which narrowly voted Wednesday night to make its withdrawal. Despite objections and calls for discussion, the church members voted 156-77 to leave the denomination. The church constitution requires a two-thirds majority for such action.


“I’m thrilled that things worked out this way,” said the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Cameron, according to The Toledo Blade. “It was a struggle. It was hard. Nobody likes change. But I could not in good conscience stay in this denomination.”

Withdrawals from the past six months were not all departures related to disagreement with the resolution supporting same-sex marriage equality, said the Rev. Roberts Chase, who reported 49 churches disaffiliated, in a released statement Thursday. But most of the decisions to leave were caused by the controversial resolution.


An undetermined number of churches that voted to remain with the UCC indicated they will consider reducing financial support for Our Church’s Wider Mission, which funds ministries at the Association, Conference, national and international settings, in 2006, according to William Morgan, the UCC’s chief financial officer. Morgan also noted supportive congregations’ intentions to increase contributions.


Pilgrim had its first vote on Dec. 11, 2005, when the decision to leave was declined by the members as the issue fell 12 votes short. After the second vote, applause broke out among some, others protested, and a few even walked out saying they will no longer attend Pilgrim Church.


After Wednesday’s vote, the Rev. Cameron withdrew a letter of resignation he had submitted when the church had voted to remain with the UCC in December.


A committee will be formed to explore the church’s options, said Dan Bollinger, Pilgrim’s moderator.


The UCC, formed in 1957, has 5,725 churches and about 1.3 million members. Individual congregations within the UCC retain legal ownership of their buildings and property, making it easier for congregations to decide their own futures.




**Christian group wants to ‘redeem’ US states (WorldNetDaily, 051024)


CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Cory Burnell wants to set up a Christian nation within the United States where abortion is illegal, gay marriage is banned, schools cannot teach evolution, children can pray to Jesus in public schools and the Ten Commandments are posted publicly.


To that end, Burnell, 29, left the Republican Party, moved from California and founded Christian Exodus two years ago with the goal of redirecting the United States by “redeeming” one state at a time.


First up for redemption is South Carolina.


Burnell hopes to move 2,500 Christians into the northern part of the state by next year and to persuade tens of thousands to relocate by 2016. His goal is to fill the state legislature with “Christian constitutionalists.”


The push comes at a time when Christian fundamentalism is a growing force in U.S. politics, displays of the Ten Commandments in government buildings are spurring litigation and President George W. Bush is touting the evangelical Christian credentials of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.


Christian Exodus officially started in May 2004, reaching people mainly through the Internet. Since then, five families and two individuals have relocated to South Carolina, Burnell said.


The organization, which claims about 1,000 members, held its first conference October 15-16 to promote its agenda. About 50 people from as far away as Ohio and Oregon attended.


Burnell picked South Carolina partly for its Christian majority and conservative politics.


“Historically, Southerners do have a states’ rights mentality,” he said. “Christians in the North are experiencing the most liberalism, or you could say persecution.”


Christian Exodus hopes to throw off what it considers unconstitutional burdens imposed by the federal government. Examples, Burnell said, are federal spending on public education and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the use of the courts “to teach that Heather has two mommies.”


“We (want to) force Washington, D.C., to reform itself by not going along with it,” he said.


The organization’s Web site says if it does not meet its goal of change, it will work to secede from the United States.


South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union in 1860, and the first shots of the U.S. Civil War were fired from Charleston’s Battery onto Fort Sumter.


The group’s reception in South Carolina has been mixed.


Arthur Bryngelson, chairman of the Dorchester County Republican Party, spoke at a Christian Exodus’ conference and said he would encourage Christian Exodus members to become Republicans.


“I consider myself to be a fundamental Christian,” he said. “I’m with (Christian Exodus) all the way up to secession. ... I’m not in favor of going down to the Battery and firing on Fort Sumter again.”


State Sen. Mike Fair, a Republican who described himself as “a narrow-minded, right-wing, fundamentalist fanatic,” said he was suspicious of Christian Exodus.


“I had huge credibility problems with them,” he said. “Their plank for this perceived buckle of the Bible Belt, they’re so far off the mark. I don’t think they’re going to get much traction.”


Joel Sawyer, spokesman for Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, would not comment except to say, “We have a great state with a great quality of life that’s certainly open to anyone.”


Columbia attorney Herbert E. Buhl III, who does legal work for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he received “a nasty little letter ... calling me a liar” from a Christian Exodus representative.


Buhl said the letter came after he had represented Wiccan Darla Wynne, who successfully sued the town of Great Falls to remove the name of Jesus Christ from pre-meeting prayers. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in 2004 with a federal judge that the town’s prayers were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government.


“This should be a nonissue,” Buhl said. “It’s separation of church and state. This is black-letter law.”




**Fed-up Christian families moving toward ‘secession’: Group attracts over 700 members in past year as citizens begin transplanting to S. Carolina (WorldNetDaily, 050703)


Will Christians move to places like Kiawah Island, S.C.?


A year after suggesting possible secession from the United States, a group of Christians fed up with American laws they believe are at odds with the Bible is beginning to move to its target state of South Carolina. has attracted more than 700 members from across America since WND broke the news of its inception last May, and already a half-dozen families have picked up and transplanted to the Palmetto State.


“A year ago, no one had moved. It was just a project on the board,” said Cory Burnell, a financial adviser who is president of ChristianExodus. “Now, it’s actually happening. Whether it’s a couple of years or 20 years, we’re gonna get it done.”


Calling the legalization of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts the straw that broke the camel’s back, the group was inspired to concentrate like-minded Christians in a single area to influence local laws, with secession a possibility. Recent Supreme Court decisions regarding the seizure of private property and the debate over the public display of the Ten Commandments have only served to strengthen the resolve of many.


“We, like other believers, as well as many other conservatives have seen the political situation in the United States dominated by liberals over the last 40 years, whether they were in power or not,” says Mike Sawyer, who is looking to make the move. “The ‘conservative Republican’ party has let the people who have worked to get them elected down repeatedly. The latest ‘filibuster disaster’ regarding judicial nominees is a case in point. Basically, a handful of Republican senators decided to cave in to the liberals, again. We believe that this can only be turned around with a concentrated effort in one state.”


But is splitting away from the U.S. a serious option?


“The thought of secession is a last resort strategy,” Sawyer said. “We hope to work within the system as much as possible in order to restore a true constitutional government.”


That sentiment is echoed by Frank Janoski, who moved his wife, Tammy, and their four children from Mohrsville, Pa., to South Carolina in February.


“I believe we can work with ‘the system’ if you will to effect the outcome of local elections and certainly the CE theory is to do this county by county,” Janoski said, “but I do not discount the possibility that the federal government or the rest of the ‘union’ may not agree with our objectives or core politics. So secession may be a very real alternative – and is as I believe our constitutional right if things lead to that.”


“I’m about as patriotic as anyone you’ll ever meet,” says Charles Lewis, who moved his family of four from the nation’s capital for the opportunity to raise his children in a wholesome, Christian-friendly environment. “However, the secession option is firmly in the Constitution – it’s the linchpin of the whole thing, [the] ultimate safety valve.”


Nevertheless, Lewis’ love for America remains clear.


“The USA is God’s country, the greatest nation of modern times,” he told WND. “We’ve fed the world, fought its wars, sent out more missionaries to spread the word of God than any other. Our Declaration and Constitution were divinely inspired.”


ChristianExodus members are coordinating with the Constitution Party, the political party most closely aligned with the goals of Burnell’s group. Those who make the move are expected to play an active role in local and state politics, with many looking to run for elected office.


Burnell says he’s excited about the movement due to the sheer youth of those involved.


“Most of our leadership is in their twenties, thirties and forties,” he said. “We’re a project driven by young people. We’re not going anywhere – except South Carolina.”


Though ChristianExodus does not have any test for citizenship, it does post a statement of beliefs on its website. Burnell says Catholics, Mormons and even Jews are members, all looking to reestablish constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles.


The group is planning to hold a conference the weekend of Oct. 15-16 in Greenville, S.C., to include speakers and vendors such as real estate agents for those considering a change in residency.


Ironically, Burnell, who last year was living in Texas, has moved west to California due to a family commitment, but he says he does plan on moving east to South Carolina.


“Why not go to the liberal bastion to motivate yourself to get out?” he said.




**Christians look to form ‘new nation’ within U.S.: Same-sex marriage called last straw prompting plan for 1 state to secede (WorldNetDaily, 040524)


Calling the approval of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” a group of Christian activists is in the beginning stages of an effort to have one state secede from the United States to become its own sovereign nation.


“Our Christian republic has declined into a pagan democracy,” says Cory Burnell, president of, a non-profit corporation based in Tyler, Texas. “There are some issues people just can’t take anymore, and [same-sex marriage] might finally wake up the complacent Christians.”


Burnell is leading the charge for a peaceful secession of one state from the union, and after originally considering Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina due to their relatively small populations, coastal access, and the Christian nature of the electorate, Burnell says South Carolina has been selected as the target location.


The plan initially calls for at least 12,000 Christians willing to be active in political campaigns to move to the Palmetto State.


“We’re not an invading force, we’re reinforcements,” Burnell tells WorldNetDaily, saying it would be a waste to move to liberal-minded states such as Massachusetts, New York or California where conservative votes would be diluted.


According to the ChristianExodus website, which is slated for a major relaunch next month, “Christians have actively tried to return our entire land to its moral foundation for more than 20 years. We can categorically say that absolutely nothing has been achieved. If you disagree, consider this:


* Abortion continues against the wishes of many states


* Children may not pray in our schools


* The Bible is not welcome in schools except under strict federal guidelines


* The 10 Commandments remain banned from public display


* Sodomy is now legal and celebrated as ‘diversity’ rather than perversion


* Preaching Christianity will soon be outlawed as ‘hate speech’


* Gay marriage will be foisted upon us in the very near future


“All these atrocities continue in spite of the fact that we now have the ‘right’ people in places of power. Indeed, the occupant of the White House is a professing Christian. The U.S. attorney general is believed to be a devout Christian. ‘Conservatives’ control both Houses of Congress, and Republican presidents appointed seven of the nine Supreme Court justices.”


The idea of moving thousands of people to affect the voting in one state is not new. As WorldNetDaily has previously reported, the Free State Project has goals of restoring certain personal liberties and limited government – but without seceding from the union. Last year, a group of 4,500 libertarians decided New Hampshire would be the best state.


Burnell, a math teacher and cell-phone dealer, stresses he’s not looking for bloody battles that took place in the American Revolution and the Civil War, but is rather seeking a “political divorce.”


“It’s got to be different today,” he says. “It has to be peaceful, brokered.”


But he admits if the federal government decides to use military force to stop the effort, “Then it can’t happen.”


Already a dozen people are actively working on the project, and some 1,500 e-mails of support have been received.


If all goes according to plan, Burnell is hoping to have a constitutional convention by 2014, with a president of the new nation – still to be known as South Carolina – elected in 2016, which is also a presidential election year in the U.S.


He says the nation would be founded on Christian principles, and the people writing its constitution would have to hash out details to safeguard it as a Christian republic.


For now, Burnell prefers to shy away from specifics on the precise laws governing the country.


“Independence first, details later,” he says.




**Outpouring for Pope masks Europe’s spiritual crisis (, 050408)


Mona Charen


They stood in a line that stretched at least a mile, sometimes 30 abreast. Huddled in blankets in the evening cold, and gratefully accepting bottled water from priests patrolling the line during the hot daylight hours, the mourners — who wanted one last glimpse of Pope John Paul II — waited patiently for as long as 12 hours. The funeral of this modern pope has become the greatest Christian pilgrimage of all time. Accordingly, images out of Rome this week give the impression of a still-vibrant European Christianity.


And yet, this outpouring, fattened by the presence of 2 million Poles, is somewhat misleading. For while believers have not disappeared (particularly in the newly free countries of Eastern Europe), they have become a distinct minority in a continent that is decidedly post-Christian.


George Weigel, the theologian who produced John Paul II’s masterful authorized biography “Witness to Hope,” has a new slender volume out that addresses Europe’s sickness of the soul. In “The Cube and the Cathedral,” Weigel begins with a series of questions that limn the problem:


What accounts for disturbing currents of irrationality in contemporary European politics? Why did one of every five Germans (and one third of those under 30) believe that the United States was responsible for 9-11, while some 300,000 French men and women made a best-seller out of ‘The Appalling Fraud,’ in which author Thierry Meyssan argued that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed by the U.S. military. ... Why is European productivity dwindling? ... Why does Sweden have a considerably higher level of its population living below the poverty line ... than the United States? ... Above all ... why is Europe committing demographic suicide, systematically depopulating itself in what British historian Niall Ferguson calls the ‘greatest sustained reduction in European population since the Black Death of the 14th century’? What is happening when an entire continent, wealthier and healthier than ever before, declines to create the human future in the most elemental sense, by creating a next generation?


The new European Constitution contains some 70,000 words. But nowhere is there a reference to Christianity or to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Europe’s commitment to human rights, according to the document, arose from classical antiquity and from the Enlightenment. Fifteen hundred years of Christian influence were airbrushed out. When a phrase acknowledging Europe’s Christian patrimony was suggested (by a Jewish scholar, actually), the French and others vehemently objected.


Across Western Europe, churches stand empty on Sunday mornings (though in Poland and other Eastern European nations this is not the case). And among the intellectual elites, Christian commitment is regarded as an embarrassment — as even perhaps a disqualifying trait for high office. (There are echoes of this attitude in the United States, as well. Last year, Senate Democrats blocked the confirmation of Judge William Pryor due to his “deeply held religious views.” Pryor is a practicing Catholic.)


Culture, Weigel argues, determines civilization. Without its distinctly Christian history, Europe would not be what it is. To cite just one example, Weigel recalls the 11th century “investiture” controversy between Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII. The pope won, and the victory established an important principle that would have profound consequences for the development of what would later be called “civil society.” The principle established was that the state “would not occupy every inch of social space.”


Nor is it possible to conceive of the great figures of European history apart from their Christianity. Weigel lists dozens of names and reminds the reader that these emblematic Europeans were all influenced by, often completely imbued with, their faith — much to the continent’s good. Benedict, Bernini, Becket, Bach, Bacon, Calvin, Cromwell, Dante, Dostoevsky, Gutenberg, Michelangelo, Milton, More, Wesley and Wilberforce, among many others. Weigel acknowledges Christianity’s sins and errors, but wonders whether atheistic humanists recognize theirs.


Europe today is a society adrift, untethered to the source of its greatness. It is, to use the great Jewish American writer Will Herberg’s formulation, “a cut flower culture.” And just as Europeans are losing the elemental desire to preserve their civilization, Muslim immigrants stand ready to vindicate the loss of 1683. It is not inconceivable that European civilization — post-Christian, politically correct and too weary to take its own side in a quarrel (to paraphrase Robert Frost) — may yet deliver to the Muslim world a delayed victory.




**Cymbala decries division within and among churches (The Baptist Standard, 010201)


By Ferrell Foster, Texas Baptist Communications


SAN ANTONIO—Division in churches is preventing God’s Holy Spirit from working in those churches, New York pastor Jim Cymbala told Texas Baptists last week.


Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, preached at the Baptist General Convention of Texas Evangelism Conference Jan. 30 for the second consecutive year. In this year’s closing session, he recalled Jesus’ words in Mark 3 that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”


“Do you know what holds back most churches in Texas?” It’s the same thing that holds them back elsewhere—division, Cymbala said.


“Talking and division and fighting” within congregations are destroying them, he explained. “We let it go on and on,” and church members are so used to it that they are no longer surprised by it.


Brooklyn Tabernacle does not allow people in its world-famous choir to talk badly about others, Cymbala said. If a choir member is found to be talking negatively about others or sowing division, he or she is put out of the choir.


“We don’t need music,” the pastor said. “We need Holy Ghost music.”


In many churches, deacons fight deacons, choir members fight choir members and the beat goes on throughout the church, he said. This is literally killing pastors because of the discord and stress it creates.


The early Christian church described in the Book of Acts flourished because there was no division among the believers, Cymbala said. There was “nothing being done to obstruct” the work of the Holy Spirit.


“It’s impossible for God to bless something that is divided,” he warned. “No house divided against itself can stand. That’s the first principle of spiritual life.”


That principle also applies to the larger Christian world, he declared. “Right now, Christendom is divided. To God, there are no denominations. ... We’re all precious to him.”


Cymbala spoke of “carnal distinctions” Christians use to divide themselves, and he then applied the principle of unity to families. “You don’t divide my children up; we’re one family. And so is God’s family.”


The Bible speaks clearly against a “party spirit,” the New York pastor said. The Apostle Paul said to “mark those who cause division among you.”


Finally, Cymbala said it’s “sick” and “bizarre” that what Martin Luther King Jr. said in the 1960s is still true, that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week.


People in America participate with those of other races at work, in sports and in government, Cymbala said, explaining that everything in this country is done interracially except church.


There are white people in Texas who will cheer for Dallas Cowboys running back Emmett Smith but not want his “cousin” to go to their church, Cymbala said. Then he added that “black racism is just as ugly as white racism,” as is Hispanic racism.


“God’s Holy Spirit is no respecter of persons,” the pastor said. Then he drew a challenge to Texas churches: “If your doors aren’t open to everyone, they can’t be open to God.”


(Jim Cymbala has been the pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle for more than twenty-five years. The author of the best-selling titles Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire; Fresh Faith; and Fresh Power, he lives in New York City with his wife, Carol Cymbala, who directs the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.)




On Christian Unity (Touchstone, 950700)


Two Excerpts on the Relations Between Protestants, Roman Catholics, & Orthodox


by S. M. Hutchens & Leon J. Podles


S. M. Hutchens, a Touchstone Associate Editor, is a librarian and lives in Racine, Wisconsin, with his wife, Mary, and their two daughters. Leon J. Podles, a Touchstone Contributing Editor, lives in Naples, Florida, with his wife, Mary, and their six children.


Both excerpts are reprinted from Touchstone, Summer 1995. My Brother, Be He Ne’er So Vile?


The Difficulty and Promise of Catholic-Evangelical Rapprochment: An Address to an Evangelical Congregation


By S. M. Hutchens


. . . We agree with Catholics, at least with traditional Catholics, on who the Savior is, but not on how we are saved. Nevertheless, however it is that Christians are made, it appears that the Lord makes them among both of us anyway. And if someone objects to this observation, I can only say that he needs to meet more Catholics than he has and apply the same standards for Christian life and confession that he does to himself, remembering the words of the Epistle of James:


You say you have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works. . . . You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. (2:18, 24);


Do you believe this to be the Word of God? Martin Luther could not conceive of it as such, but Martin Luther was wrong on this point. Catholics agree with Protestants that sinners are saved by grace through faith, and that none of us does any good works of which he can boast as though his ability to do them did not also come from the grace of God in Christ. And I will say this again, with as much force as it needs to be said: the reputedly Protestant sola fide, the notion that one is saved by faith alone, is simply unbiblical. This separates faith and works in salvation where Holy Scripture makes them inseparable. To be sure, as Paul says, we cannot be saved by the works of the Law. This means that no one can be good enough to make God his debtor and merit salvation apart from Christ. But that is a different matter. In many of these things the Catholics put us to shame, showing us their faith by their works, as James said they should.


I am not obliged to believe that every Catholic, not even every devotedly religious Catholic, is a true believer, or that the Catholic Church has never erred, or that there isn’t much idolatry in Catholicism. As a matter of fact, I firmly believe that no separate communion is the Church, and that all churches have erred-that each has its characteristic form of error to which it is drawn as a besetting sin. But I can see Christ among the Catholics as Savior and Lord, and this seems to me the main point.


I will end with a story told by Fr. Paul


Quay, of blessed memory, a wise and godly Jesuit priest who taught theology for many years at Loyola University in Chicago. It is no doubt apocryphal-it is, in fact, a joke he used to put Protestant believers at ease-but it makes several very serious points that were important to him, and to many of us who were (and, by God’s grace in the communion of the saints, still are) his friends.


It seems that a bishop was making his annual visit to a Catholic parish to confirm and give First Communion to the children in that year’s crop of confirmands. It is an old custom of bishops to question the catechumens to see what they have learned. The interrogation was creaking along with hesitant and not very satisfactory answers when the bishop said, “Very well. Here’s one that everyone should be able to get. Who is Jesus Christ?” There was a long silence. Finally a little boy in the back row raised his hand. “Yes, my son?” the bishop said.


“Jesus Christ,” said the boy, “is the Son of God, our Savior. He is God of very God and Man of very Man, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He lived a perfect and holy life among us, was crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. He ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of God, our mediator and advocate, who will come again in glory to judge the world and receive us to himself.”


“Glory to God!” exclaimed the bishop. “Who is your confirmation teacher, my son?” An embarrassed-looking woman reluctantly raised her hand and said, “Ah-Your Eminence-he’s a Baptist. He just came along with one of his friends to see what a bishop looked like.”


One of the truths in this story-and mind you, it was told by a very serious Roman Catholic who I am sure had no intention of becoming a Baptist himself-is that there is one Person at the heart of our faith, and that hearts that are true to him speak the same tongue. I know of very few Protestants who have learned anything about a Catholic like Mother Teresa who wouldn’t also, hearing her testimony, say, “Glory to God!” There comes a place where if one is willing to doubt the Christianity of people like that, one must doubt one’s own, and where one must say, if this very Catholic Catholic is not a Christian, then neither am I.


But underlying this, as Father Quay’s story implied, must always be the more basic understanding that our eyes are to remain fixed upon Christ, for only then will we have the ability to remove the beams from our own so that we may see our brothers as we ought.


All That Separates Must Converge: The Fragmentation of Christianity and the Unity of the Faith


By Leon J. Podles


. . . The greatest division is the one between the East and the West, but it is not total. There are some Eastern churches in communion with the bishop of Rome, but the vast bulk of Eastern Christianity is not in communion with Rome, to the point that for almost everyone in the world, Roman Catholic equals the Latin or Western church. Many Roman Catholics, including priests, as late as the 1950s did not even recognize Maronite or Ukrainian Rite Catholics as Catholics, and denied them Communion. But the Uniate churches and the small Western Rite Orthodox movement do not change the overall picture much: there is a vast gulf between East and West.


What would have been the result for Christianity if the Eastern and Western churches had not divided? Would the Western church have been influenced by the Eastern, or the Eastern by the Western? It would have been a tragedy, as the pope himself would admit, if the Western church, as it developed after the split, had influenced the Eastern church to follow the same path of development as the West.


The development of the Western church has been, if not disastrous, at least a source of endless trouble. It is not clear whether the West took the course it did because it split from the East, or whether it would have taken that course and drawn the East along with it. The characteristic genius (or fault) of the West is to take aspects of Christianity and to develop them as far as possible, even if this development isolates them from the fullness of Christian life. The characteristic genius of the East is to maintain all the elements of Christianity in the original synthesis, even if this means that certain aspects remain undeveloped. The West fragmented the white light of revelation in order to see the colors clearly; the East has maintained the purity of the original light, but does not always distinguish the colors. . . .


While from my point of view the Orthodox broke with Rome rather than the other way around, it would have been harmful to the Church as a whole if they had not. Roman centralization and scholasticism, especially since the Western countries had the advantage of freedom from the Turks and the prosperity brought by the Industrial Revolution, would have led to a massive infiltration of Western ways into the East and a loss of patristic theology and practices. The churches of the East would have been opened fully to the damaging rationalism and infidelity that have ravaged the Western churches. The separation allowed the East to preserve as a touchstone the way of life of the patristic church, and so to become, to the Western eye, somewhat immobilist, but at the same escaping the distortions of the West.


However, the separation was only for a time, and I (and the Pope) hope that it is rapidly drawing to an end. Papal leadership might offer the Eastern churches a way out of the nettlesome problem of establishing new churches outside of the ancient homelands. It might also, as in the West, offer a partial antidote to extreme nationalism, which the Orthodox churches recognize is a danger although they seem to be still tempted by it (as in Serbia). But what the East has to offer the West is infinitely more important. The Western church, including the Roman Catholic Church, is in real danger of ceasing to be a Christian body. Neither St. Augustine nor St. John Chrysostom would recognize as Christian much of what goes on in Roman Catholic parishes. A quiet advocacy of homosexuality goes on unimpeded by rebukes from the Vatican. Belief in the sacraments is rapidly evaporating. Confirmation and confession are almost totally neglected. Feminism is the reigning ideology, and bishops promote it as much as they can without provoking direct action from Rome. Reports of concelebrations by laywomen are increasing, and the archdiocese of Chicago plans to put women in charge of dozens of its parishes.


Feminism is the chief challenge to the Church today. It is as dangerous as Gnosticism, to which it bears a strong resemblance in its internal incoherence and its resentment of the natural order. It is more dangerous than even grave doctrinal errors, such as the unitarianism of the Second Person propounded by a handful of Pentecostal groups, because it appeals to a sociological situation in the Western church. Women dominate, sometimes by large ratios, the congregations of the West, and Western church life has been profoundly affected by this sociological fact. The Western churches perhaps for this reason are unable to deal with feminism, because they fear to alienate the last group in society that goes to church: women. I have my fears that the Orthodox also may succumb. Although the spiritual significance of gender is prominent in Scripture, it is not treated by the Fathers, who adopted the Greek attitude to the body, that, if it was not evil, it was certainly not important, especially in its gendered and sexual aspect. Jung, the main channel for the revival of Gnosticism in the Church, is all too appealing to Christians who think that his system can be used to elucidate Christianity to modern man. Even such an excellent thinker as Evdokimov (although he wrote and died before the dangers of feminism became clear) shows an aversion to Christ’s masculinity as a theological fact, and instead tends to see him as the supreme androgyne. The novel challenge of feminism is probably beyond the internal resources of Orthodoxy; it also requires both careful rational analysis and new delving into the resources of Scripture, specialized tactics that are more the province of the West.


Both to meet the challenges of modern life and to fulfill Christ’s prayer that they may all be one, it is necessary for all Christians to join in a visible union. Each church may properly maintain its identity and traditions, not in isolation, but in fruitful communion with other churches with divergent traditions. It is hard to see what other institution than the papacy could provide visible unity. The popes, especially the current one, regard their office not as an opportunity to lord it over other Christians, but as a grave burden of responsibility. As in a marriage, authority is based upon self-sacrifice. A wife might question a husband’s authority over her. After all, the man is equal to her, and who is he to exercise authority over an equal? But if the husband shows his willingness to die for the wife, his exercise of authority becomes not a means of self-aggrandizement, but an act of love.


The pope, too, is the first among equals, and knows that his authority has to be validated by self-sacrifice. Pope John Paul II has worked tirelessly in the service of Catholics, Christians, and indeed all men. His endless travels and extensive writings try to bring the gospel to all. He knows that his actions provoke the wrath of God’s enemies, and he has shed his blood at their hands. His greatest desire is for reunion with the Orthodox, a union that would revivify the Church, allowing it to breathe with both lungs, and that would lead eventually to the reunion of all Christians, not in an institutional consolidation, but in a communio that reflected the communio of the Three Persons of the Trinity, eternally distinct yet eternally one in love.




Most U.S. Religious Groups Bar Gay Clergy (Foxnews, 030805)


Most U.S. religious bodies follow ancient Jewish and Christian tradition and bar actively homosexual clergy, though they usually accept those committed to celibacy.


That includes Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical Protestant groups and Orthodox Judaism. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormon”) has no ordained clergy but also opposes same-sex behavior.


Five denominations in particular have debated the issue:


— The Episcopal Church set a 1991 policy that sex is “appropriate” only within heterosexual marriage. But a 1996 church tribunal acquitted a bishop who ordained an openly gay priest, leaving others free to do likewise. Now the issue is gay bishops.


— The Presbyterian Church (USA) added a provision in church law in 1997 that requires all clergy and lay officers to observe fidelity in heterosexual marriage or “chastity in singleness.” Liberals have since lost two nationwide referendums to repeal that law, which they continue to resist.


— The United Methodist Church passed a similar law in 1984 that was strongly upheld at the General Conference in 2000. The latest repeal bid has been referred to next year’s conference.


— The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted in 2001 to have a study committee re-examine its policy against same-sex activity. The report is due in 2005.


— Conservative Judaism decided in March that an authoritative committee of rabbis will study whether opposition to homosexual activity remains valid. That work could take years.


Denominations with open policies:


— Reform Judaism has allowed openly homosexual rabbis since 1990.


— The Unitarian Universalist Association’s 1980 convention advocated “full assistance” to job placement for “openly gay, lesbian and bisexual” clergy.


— The United Church of Christ’s 1991 national synod urged subunits to “facilitate the ordination and placement of qualified lesbian, gay and bisexual” clergy with no restrictions on same-sex activity.


— The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, founded in 1968 to serve a largely homosexual membership, also follows a liberal ordination policy.




Church destroyed after ‘gay wedding’ (WorldNetDaily, 031009)


Local leaders considered it defiled after ceremony for 2 men


The Russian Orthodox Church destroyed a chapel after local churchmen declared it defiled because it hosted a “marriage” ceremony for two men.


The Rev. Vladimir Enert was defrocked for conducting the service for Denis Gogolyev and Mikhail Morozev at the Chapel of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, 280 miles east of Moscow, the London Telegraph reported.


The men said they paid Enert a $500 bribe to ignore the church’s ban on same-sex marriages.


The Telegraph said a spokesman for the Orthodox Church indicated the chapel had to be demolished because it was desecrated. Some local officials said it was going to be leveled anyway to make way for a larger church, but the new facility is not scheduled to open until 2005.


A spokesman for the Nizhny Novgorod Patriarchate told the London paper: “The chapel was dismantled because it is no longer needed.”


But, he admitted, according to the Telegraph, the “marriage” may have “sped up the process.”


During the Sept. 1 ceremony, Enert asked the men which one would play the role of the woman.


Gogolyev reportedly replied: “It’s the same to us, father, we’re both just spouses.”


The ceremony sparked outrage across the nation, even among people not associated with the church.


Moscow Patriarchate spokesman Viktor Malukhin stated: “Nothing of this kind has happened during the 1,000-year history of the Russian Church.


“According to Christian teachings,” he said, “marriage is a free union of a man and a woman blessed by God, while homosexuality is a sign of human nature obscured by sin.”




SBC and UCC Debate Controversial Church Ad (Christian Post, 041202)


The UCC’s controversial commercial of ‘all-inclusiveness’ was rejected by NBC and CBS because of its apparent implication that gay and lesbian couples are affirmed by God.


Christian conservative met Christian liberal during a spot on ABC’s Good Morning America, Dec 2. The topic of discussion was the controversial television ad by the United Church of Christ (UCC) that was banned from national broadcasting networks for its apparent implication that gay and lesbian couples are affirmed by God.


“It is a piece of masterful propaganda but it is a diabolical misrepresentation of Christianity,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, of the advertisement.


“... Jesus Christ did indeed come to seek and to save the lost but as He said to the woman caught in adultery, ‘Go and sin no more,’” Mohler said. Jesus “did not invite persons to stay in sinful lifestyles. Rather, He came to save us from our sins and to make us what we otherwise could not be — and that is victorious over all the sins that entrap us. Homosexuality is one of those.”


The 30-second UCC commercial began running on several cable channels Dec. 1 as part of the denomination’s “stillspeaking” campaign toward the inclusion of “all persons who feel rejected” by the church.


The ad, which can be viewed at, depicts a pair of bouncers who are standing before a long line of people that are trying to get into a “picturesque church”. The bouncers stop a same-sex couple, saying “No, step aside please;” they turn away two black children by saying, “No way, not you;” they also turn away a Hispanic girl with the words, “No way;” finally, the bouncers remove the ropes, but only to a well-dressed white family.


The words, “Jesus didn’t turn people away ... Neither do we” appear on screen, as a voice reads, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”


“This ad is clearly allegorical,” said Robert Chase, UCC director of communications, who appeared across Mohler on Good Morning America. “There are no churches that have real bouncers out in front of their structures with velvet ropes. But the point is not from those of us who are inside the church but those people who feel alienated and rejected. For those people, those barriers are very real and we’re simply trying to say, ‘You’re welcome here.’”


Nonetheless, both NBC and CBS have refused to carry the commercial.


On the same day of the Good Morning America broadcast, Chase released a statement saying the two networks never told the UCC they felt the commercial was controversial.


“The networks clearly offered mixed signals,” said Chase. “At no time were we under the impression that the networks’ decisions were final. Our understanding was that such negotiations between media buyers and networks were not unusual and were nothing to be concerned about. From the church’s viewpoint, we simply could not believe that this advertisement would be considered controversial or issue-oriented, because quite clearly it is not.”


According to the statement, Chase heard of the networks’ reservations earlier in the year, but “when the church had no difficulty placing the ads on the networks’ stations, it appeared that the rejections were not solid.”


It was not until Nov. 30 that the UCC learned of the commercial’s rejection.


The CBS explained in a written statement that the commercial is too controversial because it touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups in a sensitive time of debate over those issues.


“Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks,” CBS wrote.


NBC stated simply the ad is “too controversial.”


Larry Hollon, director of advertising for The United Methodist Church, said the networks’ rejection of the commercial was “chilling.”


“The reasons given by the networks for rejecting this message should bring a chill to everyone who supports freedom of religious expression because they are saying that a fundamental tenet of Christian belief is politically unacceptable for the public dialogue,” Hollon told his denomination’s newspaper, the United Methodist Reporter. “The belief that God loves every person without condition is so basic to Christian teaching that if a denomination cannot make this assertion what can it say? Such decisions shut out the Christian community from the national conversation.”


“How ironic that a gentle message of inclusion is considered unacceptable while ads for beer are accepted and programs in which people eat insects and worms are considered entertaining,” Hollon added. “In a divided and fearful world this message is not only needed. It could lead to healing.”


However, Mohler disagreed. During his appearance with Diane Sawyer, Mohler pointed out that while every church is composed of sinners, these sinners make an effort to repent and turn from their sins.


“Our church is made up, like every true church, of sinners saved by grace,” Mohler said to Sawyer who asked if his criticism of the commercial meant he does not want gays to attend his church . “But we are not to be left in our sin but are to come out of what the Scripture clearly identifies as sin. The Apostle Paul spoke [to] the church at Corinth, listing things, including homosexuality, and said, ‘and such were some of you.’ We are all sinners but we cannot remain in our sin and we can’t just bless a lifestyle by saying we accept it when the Scripture clearly condemns it as sin.”


In concluding the brief interview, Sawyer asked Mohler if he would allow moneychangers whom “Jesus reserved His worst anger.”


Mohler answered that the moneychangers would be urged through proclamation of the Gospel not to remain in their sin.


“They would not be welcome to remain as moneychangers any more than Jesus would just bless any kind of sin,” Mohler said.


“Remember, Jesus required the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give to the poor and he didn’t and he went away. Jesus doesn’t leave us as we are. He offers us His grace — salvation — but that’s a transforming grace to call us out of sin. Homosexuals would be welcomed. There would be no bouncers at the door at our church to keep them out but they would hear the authentic Gospel when they came inside.”


The stillspeaking commercial has been allowed on the ABC-affiliate, ABC Family. According to the UCC website, other cable networks have also agreed to use the commercial, including TNT, TBS, FOX, Hallmark, Discovery, TVLand, AMC, BET, Travel Channel, Nick at Nite and the History Channel.


The UCC is a network of nearly 6,000 congregations with 1.3 million members. The UCC is one of just a few major denominations that allow the ordination and “union blessing” of homosexuals. [Kwing Hung: What a liberal and ungodly denomination! Beware!]




The Future of Ecumenicalism Lies in Interfaith Dialogue (Christian Post, 050330)


The world is becoming more and more polarized religiously and the ecumenical movement needs to adopt interfaith dialogue and cooperation as a priority in the 21st century, at least according to Samuel Kobia, the head of the World Council of Churches (WCC).


In a seminar on Ecumenism held in Bangladesh, a nation known for violent clashes between majority Muslims and minority Christians, the Rev. Kobia emphasized that church bodies must strengthen interfaith dialogue at the grassroots level where most of the negative impact of religious intolerance and violence is felt.


His comments were made during his first visit to Bangledesh as the WCC’s general secretary. In addition to speaking at the seminar, Kobia shared a discussion on the rights of minorities, increasing trends of religious intolerance, and political violence with the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.


Prof. Dr Iajjudin Ahmed, the nation’s president, assured Kobia that terrorist activities – which has steadily risen over the years – is only the responsibility of a handful of people. He also told Kobia that the government is determined to prevent such activities and not to allow the extremists to have an impact, according to a WCC press release.


Meanwhile, Kobia asked president Ahmed to consider declaring Easter Service a public holiday; Ahmed said he would support the proposal, and encouraged Christian leaders to start negotiations with the government.


Prior to his meeting with the president, Kobia also inaugurated the “Human and Organizational Potential Enhancement (HOPE)” international training centre of the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB) in the capital city of Dhaka.


The CCDB, which works toward strengthening civil society, hopes to sustain and protect justice and freedom in society.


In the inaugural ceremony, Kobia affirmed that the CCDB is needed in a nation such as Bangladesh, where high levels of human deprivation exists. Such systematic efforts under the Commission will ultimately ensure freedom and human dignity for all, Kobia said.


Kobia was joined by his wife, Mrs. Rush Kobia, the WCC Asia secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara, National Council of Churches President Sudhir Adhikari, Baptist Church President Sheila Mong Chowdhury, and Christian Development Commission Director Joyantha Adhikari, throughout his stay in Bangladesh.




Mainline Churches Pave Road to Joint Communion (Christian Post, 050511)


United Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians may begin worshiping, studying and evangelizing together as early as next year.


Last week, United Methodist Church bishops approved interim agreements for sharing the Eucharist with the Episcopal Church USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, during their weeklong spring meeting in Arlington, Va.,


Should the Lutheran and Episcopalian lawmaking assemblies approve those agreements, the three churches will be sharing communion, studying with one another and being involved in mission together. The UMC will be entering into separate agreements with each of the denominations. The Lutheran and Episcopal churches are also in conversation for communion with each other.


According to Methodist Bishop William B. Oden, the agreements are “highly significant” because they mark the first time the UMC would share communion with any group outside of the Methodist tradition. The 8-million-member UMC currently is in agreement with the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches.


Oden explained that the agreements are “interim” steps toward a full communion membership.


The interim shared communion agreements authorize and urge United Methodist congregations “to worship and to be in study and mission with our two sister denominations,” Oden said.


Oden expects the interim agreements to be made within a year, and the full communion process by 2012.


“The plan is for us to enter into full communion with the Lutherans at the General Conference of 2008 and with the Episcopalians at the General Conference of 2012,” Oden said.


Once the denominations are in full communion, they will recognize the authenticity of each other’s ministries and be reconciled with one another.


“These agreements are not just about sharing communion with each other; they’re about our recognizing that we are a part of one body of Christ and thus one mission for Christ in this world,” Oden said to the United Methodist News Service. “[these agreements are] a major point in the pathway to full communion, in which we recognize the authenticity and apostolicity of each other’s ministry.


“This is not a movement toward church union, but affirms each denomination’s uniqueness while we worship and work together.”




Christianity taking over planet? (WorldNetDaily, 050428)


New book makes case it’s fastest growing faith on Earth


What is the fastest-growing religion on Earth? Most news reports suggest it is Islam.


But a new book makes a compelling case it is a new, or, perhaps, old form of biblically inspired evangelical Christianity that is sweeping through places like China, Africa, India and Southeast Asia.


In “Megashift,” author Jim Rutz coins a new phrase to define this fast-growing segment of the population. He calls them “core apostolics” – or “the new saints who are at the heart of the mushrooming kingdom of God.”


Rutz makes the point that Christianity is overlooked as the fastest-growing faith in the world because most surveys look at the traditional Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church while ignoring Christian believers who have no part of either.


He says there are 707 million “switched-on disciples” who fit into this new category and that this “church” is exploding in growth.


“The growing core of Christianity crosses theological lines and includes 707 million born-again people who are increasing by 8 percent a year,” he says.


So fast is this group growing that, under current trends, according to Rutz, the entire world will be composed of such believers by the year 2032.


“There will be pockets of resistance and unforeseen breakthroughs,” writes Rutz. “Still, at the rate we’re growing now, to be comically precise, there would be more Christians than people by the autumn of 2032, about 8.2 billion.”


According to the author, until 1960, Western evangelicals outnumbered non-Western evangelicals – mostly Latinos, blacks and Asians – by two to one. As of 2000, non-Western evangelicals outnumbered Westerners by four to one. He says by 2010, the ratio will be seven to one.


“There are now more missionaries sent from non-Western nations than Western nations,” he writes.


This trend, says Rutz, has been missed by Westerners because the explosive growth is elsewhere.


Hundreds of millions of these Christians are simply not associated with the institutional churches at all. They meet in homes. They meet underground. They meet in caves. They meet, he says, in secret.


And what is driving this movement?


Miracles, he says.


“Megashift” attempts to document myriad healings and other powerful answers to the sincere prayers of this new category of believer, including, believe it or not, hundreds of dramatic cases of resurrections – not near-death experiences, but real resurrections of actual corpses.


“When I was a kid in Sunday school, I was really impressed that 3,000 people were saved on the Day of Pentecost,” he writes. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’ll never happen again!”


But, Rutz says, it now happens around the globe every 25 minutes.


“By tomorrow, there will be 175,000 more Christians than there are today,” he writes.


The essence of Rutz’s book is about how Western Christians can tap into what he sees as a mighty work of God on Earth.


“Very few people realize the nature of life on Earth is going through a major change,” he writes. “We are seeing a megashift in the basic direction of human history. Until our time, the ancient war between good and evil was hardly better than a stalemate. Now all has changed. The Creator whose epic story flows through the pages of Scripture has begun to dissolve the strongholds of evil. This new drama is being played out every hour around the globe, accompanied sometimes by mind-bending miracles.”




Protestant Church Endorses Gay Marriage (Foxnews, 060704)


ATLANTA — The United Church of Christ’s rule-making body voted overwhelmingly Monday to approve a resolution that endorses same-sex marriage, making it the largest Christian denomination to do so.


The vote is not binding on individual churches, but could cause some churches to leave the fold.


Roughly 80 percent of the members of the church’s General Synod voted to approve the resolution. They debated for about an hour before voting.


On Sunday, a committee of about 50 United Church of Christ representatives gave nearly unanimous approval to the resolution, recommending that the General Synod approve it. It was supported by the UCC’s president, John H. Thomas.


Traditionally strong in New England, the liberal denomination of 1.3 million members has long been supportive of gays and lesbians.


The committee also voted against an alternative resolution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. A small group of conservative congregations had proposed that ammendment, and suggested that approval of gay marriage could lead to the church’s collapse.


The church was criticized last year for its television advertising campaign featuring a gay couple, among others, being excluded from a church. CBS and NBC rejected the 30-second ads.


In the early 1970s, the UCC became the first major Christian body to ordain an openly gay minister. Twenty years ago, it declared itself to be “open and affirming” of gays and lesbians.


The same-sex resolution was submitted by the Southern California and Nevada Conference. The resolution specified that bisexual and transgender persons merit the same support and protections as gays and lesbians.


UCC churches are autonomous, meaning the General Synod does not create policy for its more than 5,700 congregations.


No hard data exist on how many gays and lesbians are in the UCC.


The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel of Cleveland, national interim director of the UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns, said about 2,000 people are on the group’s mailing list and about 1,000 clergy or seminarians are gay. The denomination has 10,323 ordained ministers.




China Needs a Stronger Messenger: An Appeal to the American Church (Christian Post, 050622)


[Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on May 11, 2000.]


China today is undergoing an unprecedented total transformation. She is a contradiction in terms: a communist dictatorship overseeing a capitalist economy. A socialist society only 25 years ago, she is facing the rise of a new postmodern generation of young people. China also faces some fundamental options. What will be the core values of her worldview as she steps into the 21st century? Which ideas will guide her future? From a Christian perspective, there seems to be four alternatives for China to choose from:


1. An angry, anti-foreign nationalism;

2. A resurgence of folk and native religions;

3. The pursuit of money and pleasure; or

4. The Christian worldview.


There is ample evidence for the first three. As for the influence of the Christian worldview, this is dependent on the sovereign grace of our God, and a strong presence of Christians in China, both native mainland Chinese, and Christians from overseas, living out the power of the kingdom as salt and light. There is no short cut in influencing China; it takes painstaking, patient work, building relationships, influencing institutions such as the school and the family. It yields incredible rewards.


Today, the gospel of the kingdom of God is proclaimed in China by three parties. They often do not know each other, but they are nevertheless partners in the gospel. The first is the indigenous church in China. This includes the unregistered and the registered churches, as well as the many groups of students, professors and professionals studying the Bible in small groups.




The second “hidden partner,” often not known to Christians from the west, is the overseas Chinese church. Chinese Christians from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, North America and elsewhere are deeply involved in serving and supplying the church in China, as well as commercial and non-profit enterprises in China. The third the is the church from west and other parts of the world.


Christians from the west often do not know about the tremendous influence which the overseas Chinese church has on the mainland Chinese church. Overseas Chinese Christians are the most important outside sources of Bibles and training materials for the mainland Chinese church! It is unfortunate that western Christians do not meet overseas Chinese Christian in China service. It is high time that they did.




There is a tremendous information gap that exists in the field of China service today. An incredible amount of information – news, Christian inspirational writing, and theological scholarship – is pouring out from the overseas Chinese church, from centers such as Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore and North America. The western church does not read these materials, and as a result, often do not know about the major role played by the overseas Chinese church in China. The western church often has no access to these materials, because the overwhelming majority of these materials is published in Chinese. There is a bottleneck of strategic information badly needed by western Christians for an in-depth understanding of the Chinese world. The overseas Chinese do not have the manpower (nor the desire, sometimes) to make a systematic effort to translate every important book or document into English. Overseas Chinese may not even know that there is such a need. For the sake of more effective kingdom service in China, we need to break this bottleneck. How?


John Naisbitt wrote an outstanding book in 1996, Megatrends Asia. He points out that the network of overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia is the most important “network” in the Pacific Rim (and the Pacific Rim is the most strategic region in the world, bar none). In his concluding section, Naisbitt calls upon American young people to go to Asia, and to learn Mandarin, in order for America to remain competitive in the world. His headlines read: “Go East, Young Man,” and “Mandarin Takes Center Stage.”




How true this is for the outreach of the church in China service. The North American church needs to commission and groom a new generation of China hands for the 21st century. They do not grow on trees! We have to groom them. Ninety-five years ago, Timothy Richard, a brilliant Welsh Baptist missionary in China, called for “statesmen” to be stationed in China for the sake of Christian influence on China’s leaders:


Let the missionary societies provide eighteen missionary statesmen who shall have, after their university career, a post-graduate course in Comparative Religion, and in the Science of Religious Missions, Christian and non-Christian, who are to be placed one in each provincial capital of the Empire (average population of each province is twenty million), where they will keep the leading mandarins in their respective provinces well informed with regard to the leading factors in the progress of all nations, will co-operate with all the missionary societies in the province, and help to organize the best forces, so as to produce the highest good (Timothy Richard, The China Problem, From a Missionary Point of View, London, 1905, pp. 4-6).


These are prophetic words. China needs these “statesmen” of the Christian church more than ever, in the 21st century.


I propose a 8-12 year plan to nurture such ambassadors. It usually begins with the stirrings of the Spirit of God in the heart of a young person. Result: he/she spends a summer, maybe just a week or two, in China. Result? He/she leaves his/heart in China! More prayer, reading, sharing of vision follow. After a year or two, he/she applies for a one-year or two-year stay in China, teaching English or studying Chinese. He/she returns to North America, ready to enroll in Bible college or seminary. (This needs to take place in a school which truly believes in the absolute trustworthiness and inerrancy of the Scriptures.) Two to four more years pass. Another two- or three-year term in China follows. By now this person is convinced that God wants him/her to be make China service a career. He/she needs, at this point, to settle down to a master’s or doctoral program, which includes at least 2 years of study in Mandarin. The language study, of course, can take place in China during any one of the terms of service in China. The point is: the study of the language and history of China, combined with solid theological training (grounded in an unswerving belief in the inspired, inerrant Scriptures), are both foundational to the development of “China experts” for the western church.


The church in China needs Christ’s representatives from the west who have a strong, unqualified confidence in the Bible, the inerrant Word of God, and who bring China a high view of God, Scripture and the cross. What China needs in the 21st century more than anything else, is a clear message of the sound, complete gospel, not a watered-down version.




America’s evangelical churches and seminaries are now slipping; many professors of Bible can no longer say, without qualification, that the Bible is inerrant.


This is in part due to the trend among American evangelicals to seek higher, doctoral degrees in Britain, Europe, or in North America’s secular graduate schools. I may venture to say that the majority of evangelicals who started off in graduate studies in these schools as an unswerving evangelical (with absolute confidence in the Bible) end up, by the time they receive their doctorates, with a weaker, not a stronger, faith in the Bible. This is easily detected by reading journal articles and books by evangelicals. The vigilance against erosion of faith in the church is sorely missing (with rare, notable exceptions, of course). This is true in the American church as well as in the overseas Chinese church!


This is very serious. The cost to China is very high.




I use the example of the colorful career of Timothy Richard to illustrate how the best of intentions in missions is no guarantee for doctrinal orthodoxy. Richard had a very enlightened view of missions: as a student in Haverfordshire in England, he wanted his seminary to offer Asian languages and history as preparation for missionary work. He saw through direct involvement in disaster relief, that education was China’s greatest need. He dialogued with Confucian and Buddhist scholars, and befriended them sincerely. He introduced science, history and other branches of western learning to China. He hired Liang Qichao in 1895 to be his secretary; Liang was a leader in the 1890s, belonging to the younger generation of radical scholars who called upon the Emperor to institute a constitutional monarchy. Richard translated dozens of books and booklets into Chinese, including a 19th century history of Europe. He assumed the leadership of the Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge (SDK). Richard had a very broad concept of the mission of this translation work:


Christian literature is all that literature which best enables us to do the Will of the Father in all the relations of life. It is co-extensive with the works of God and commensurate with the needs of man (Timothy Richard, “Christian Literature,” Chinese Recorder, 21;12, December 1900, 597-603).


What a wonderful vision of God’s providence and our call to provide for our fellow-men!

His contemporary, the American Presbyterian missionary Calvin Mateer, had a similarly broad vision of reaching the Chinese mind through reaching China’s intelellectual leaders through Christian schools:


There is a grand comprehensiveness in the command to disciple all nations. He who thinks it simply calls Christians without plan or organization, to seek the conversion of the largest number in the shortest time, has a very inadequate idea of its scope. It means not only to make disciples, but to make the nations Christian nations, to destroy heathenism and to cause Christian faith and morals to interpenetrate the whole structure of society. … In a word it means to give to the whole world all the blessings which Christianity has to bestow (Calvin Mateer, “The Relations of Protestant Missions to Education,” Records of the General Conference of Protestant Missionaries in China, 1877, pp. 173-176).




As Richard was busy translating books into Chinese and encouraging the radical reformers of China in the 1890s, Abraham Kuyper, Holland’s prime minister and founder of the Free University of Amsterdam, addressed Princeton University in the 1890s. The famous Stone Lectures have since been published under the title, Lectures in Calvinism. Kuyper, a theologian in his own right, reminded the church in America never to forget that the primary battle in history will always be an antithesis between truth and error, God-centered culture and man-centered culture. Kuyper’s theological descendants include Cornelius Van Til (Westminster Seminary) and Herman Douyeweerd (whose students staff the Institute of Christian Studies, Toronto).


This call to soberness and battle needed to be heard again today in the church in America, and among America’s cross-cultural servants in China.


Richard and his fellow reformer-missionaries, some of the most brilliant minds whom the church in England and America sent to China, became Universalists by the 1910s. They no longer believed in the exclusive claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ. John Fryer, English missionary, saw the emergence of a union of all the world’s religions. Listen to Richard’s grand vision:


I don’t believe the Mohammedans are unchristian in their worship of one true God instead of idols. I don’t believe that the high moral teaching of any religion is devilish and unchristian. Christianity has the power of assimilating all that is good in other religions. We come here to counteract their false teachings and to fill up what is wanting just as Christ came not to destroy but to fulfill (Timothy Richard to Baynes, Shansi, May 18, 1894; quoted in Rita Therese Johnson (Sister M. Virginia Therese, M.M.), Timothy Richard’s Theory of Christian Missions to the Non-Christian World, Ph.D. dissertation, St. John’s University, Jamaica, New York, 1966, pp. 70-71).




Why? Richard and Fryer did not sail from Britain as liberals or Universalists. They were zealous evangelicals, burning with the fire of revival. What happened? What led to this downward spiral of doctrinal belief and vigilance? Was it the fact that he was enamored with Buddhism? No, I think not. He changed because he was enamored with the sleeping but awakening giant: China, represented by her most brilliant minds, the scholars/intellectuals, and he was not alert enough to realize his own need to keep his doctrinal vigilance. Listen to Calvin Mateer’s optimistic hope for China:


The days of China’s seclusion from the rest of the world are numbered. Whether she will or not the tide of western civilization and progress is rolling in upon her, and its resistless might will certainly overflow the land. Not only so, but many of her own people are inquiring after and eager to learn the science which has made the west so great, and whose fame has already filled China to its remotest corner. There are two sufficient reasons why Christian missionaries should strive to prepare men to lead in the great transformation which is bound to be wrought in China. First, it is a good thing in itself. It will bring to China unnumbered blessings, physical, social, and political. Moreover true science and the arts which proceed from it, will effectually uproot heathen superstition, and if rightly controlled and directed, prepare a highway for the general triumph of Christianity. This leads to the second reason, which is, that if conscientious and Christian men are not forthcoming to control and direct this movement, it will be controlled by heathen and infidel men. Science and art and material improvement, will fall into the hands of the enemies of Christianity, and will be used by them as a mighty engine to hinder the progress of truth and righteousness. Science is either the ally of religion, or her most dangerous enemy. It is a grand opportunity which the Christian church has, to train u the men who shall take the lead in, and leaven with Christian truth the great mental and physical transformation, which western science and civilization is soon to make in China (Mateer, Records of the General Conference, 1877, 173-176).


Mateer was sober to realize that, if Christians do not bring science (and with it, Christianity at the core of it) to China, someone else will!


Mateer and Richard were truly prophetic. Their words sound so contemporary when we read them in the year 2000! Their vision of China opening up reminds us of the thousands of English teachers and students who learn from western English teachers in China’s universities. They remind us of the “Cultural Christians” and other “Scholars in Mainland China Studying Christianity,” eager for an in-depth understanding of what the Christian faith can do for China.


Yet … the slide toward universalism is a real possibility – then, and now.





Lesson for us to learn: keep theological education, sound, biblical, evangelical training, as a life-long part of the diet of our English teachers, expatriate business and corporate executives, and other Christian professionals serving in China. Keep them faithful to the Word of God!


Today we are sending English teachers, doctors, and businesspeople in the name of Christ to China. (Some are going to China without being sent by the church; the church is too slow to respond, so off they went!) We, too, are enamored by the awakening giant: except this time, the giant has awakened. Half of the world’s operating building cranes are in Shanghai: 20,000 of them. China is open to religious studies programs at universities; doctoral programs in religious (Christian) studies have already been launched in at least five universities, and more are opening up. English teachers for China’s universities and schools are welcome; many other forms of Christian involvement are likewise possible! We need to reach out to China in a spirit of friendship, servanthood, and dignity, offering to be a blessing and friend to China, without jeopardizing the safety of the church of Jesus Christ in that land. Why should we, the Christians from the west, be perceived as China’s enemy?


All of this is wonderful; the American church can do much of this, which the overseas Chinese church cannot. The overseas Chinese church, of course, can do certain things which the American church cannot do, in China.




We cannot afford to offer China a watered down version of the Word of God:


1. We must proclaim a God who is “infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth,” not a God who is so open and vulnerable to our fragile existence, that our surprises are God’s surprises too (Clark Pinnock’s chapter in The Openness of God, Inter Varsity Press, 1995, p. 114). Broken hearts and lives need a strong Savior, not just a sympathetic friend who will walk with them.


2. We must make the claim that Scripture is the divine address of a king, not just a document which witnesses to and record the eternal-existential encounter which is the Word of God (Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans – currently very popular among American and Chinese evangelical theologians, like never before).


3. We must proclaim the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ as propitiation for the sins of men and women, not just as therapy for broken lives. The gospel has therapeutic powers and fruits; but therapy is not the gospel!


4. We must not forget that God has revealed himself through (a) the things which were created, and (b) his work in human hearts. This is general revelation. Man’s culture, art, philosophy and religion is NOT general revelation; they are man’s response to God’s revelation, subject to error and idol-building! We, in our benevolence, often say that God has revealed himself to the Chinese people through Chinese-language characters, and ideas in Confucius and Lao Tzu. Nothing can be more dangerous than this: the implications are enormous, for accommodation, syncretism, and paganization of the church in China.


5. We must affirm that the church’s mission in China is threefold: (a) evangelization, for the conversion of men, women and children; (b) the maturing of the church (which is a much better term, in my view, than indigenization or contextualization; contextualization is infected with Marxian epistemology at its base). The work of English teachers and other professionals in China contribute in a very valuable way to all three aspects of the goal! But we must not do one at the expense of another.


Major donors to the church’s seminaries, agencies and foreign ministries must inquire if our seminaries and our missionaries still believe in the inerrant Word of God, the Bible. Students and local churches must do likewise.




The 21st century faces a global challenge from a deconstructive philosophy, “deconstructionism.” This philosophy claims that:


1. Words have no meaning (they are arbitrary signs).

2. Signs are often merely tools of political oppression.

3. History has no facts (only interpretation).

4. The universe has no truth, only narratives.


This assault on language is not only taught in America’s literature, art, sociology, film and architecture classrooms; it is studied in China with tremendous interest! (Cf. “Wake Up Call: Facing the Crises of Our Time,” at “Publications,”


We need church leaders to write and to speak out, to reaffirm our belief that language is adequate as a tool for God’s revelation. And we need to reaffirm verbal, prepositional revelation. Few theologians are doing so these days.




I call upon the church in America to wake up from her pragmatic slumbers, and to re-affirm Scripture as verbal revelation, the very words of God. We must reaffirm the absolute lostness of man and his need for salvation, which is available only on the basis of the blood of Jesus shed on the Cross at Calvary.


China, after going through the horrors of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), wants healing for hearts. But she cannot afford to be comforted by the false hopes of humanism, only to have those hopes dashed. She needs a strong Savior, one whom men and women can know only by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, using the infallible, inerrant and all-powerful Word of God, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.


If you are not prepared to firmly believe in, boldly defend and proclaim this inerrant Word of God and all the doctrines taught therein, please think twice before going to China. China needs a stronger messenger.


Dr. Samuel Ling

Christian Post Columnist




Church Selects First Woman President (Christian Post, 050726)


The Disciples of Christ elected the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins as its new president, marking the first time a woman was chosen to lead a major U.S. Protestant denomination.


Watkins was elected today as General Minister and President of the Disciples of Christ, a liberal mainline denomination also known as the Christian Church, during a General Assembly meeting in Portland, Oregon. More than 3,000 representatives to the annual gathering gave “a resounding affirmative vote,” according to the denomination’s news release.


“Today is not about me,” said Watkins, currently senior minister at Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, Okla. “It’s about all of us. We must join together and let God work with us and through us…and must share that love with others.”


The Christian Church is known for “informality, openness, individualism and diversity,” according to the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. The Disciples also “claim no official doctrine of dogma.” The denomination reportedly has 770,000 members across the nation.




NCC Exploiting the Right (American Spectator, 050726)


WASHINGTON — As funding from its member denominations continues to decline, the National Council of Churches (NCC) is increasingly relying on support from liberal foundations and polemical direct mail campaigns.


A recent fundraising letter from NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar blasts “Jerry Falwell and his friends,” “hard-right fundamentalists,” libertarians, President Bush, Rush Limbaugh, the Heritage Foundation, and the organization for which I work (the Institute on Religion and Democracy).


Reading the June 2005 letter, it is hard to remember that the NCC ostensibly represents nearly 50 million American church members and was once a mainstream organization that championed civil rights and supported the U.S. in the Cold War.


Edgar condemns the “easy certainty” with which President Bush and his “fundamentalist supporters” approach “complex problems.” Never defining what he means by “fundamentalist,” the NCC chief lumps together nearly all conservatives with the tiny movement of Christian “reconstructionists,” who want to revive the old Hebrew penal code (stoning adulturers, for example), and which includes almost no major conservative Christian leader, not even the dreaded Rev. Falwell.


Preoccupied with its political purposes, Edgar’s letter never once mentions what is officially still the NCC’s purpose: to foster ecumenical unity within America’s churches. Talking too much about Christianity might sound too “fundamentalist.”


So, seemingly writing for a largely secular audience, who are expected to react viscerally to the mere mention of names like Falwell and Limbaugh and Bush, Edgar hacks away at hard-core political themes. In so doing, he seems to want to confirm the worst allegations of the NCC’s critics: that the NCC has ceased to be a church organization and has instead become a political lobby of the Left. Indeed, to remove all doubt, Edgar mentions that the NCC works closely with the far-left, which, though unmentioned by Edgar in his letter, also has provided funding to the NCC.


Surreally, Edgar never indirectly acknowledges that most of the NCC’s own purported constituency, millions of Americans who attend NCC denominations, do not politically support the NCC’s goals and decidedly vote differently from Edgar’s preferences. Church-going mainline Protestants once again last year voted more Republican than Democrat.


Much of Edgar’s theme is that the NCC, unlike the “fundamentalists” he repeatedly condemns, is subtle, nuanced, and reflective. But the NCC is not a think tank or even a careful political commentator. Its policy statements, usually delivered as brief news releases, merely provide a slight religious veneer to talking points that could just as easily be found on Although Edgar rejects the supposed “easy certainty” of his adversaries, the NCC’s politics are in fact quite simple: anti-U.S. military and pro-big government. Its stances are largely the now aging protest slogans of the 1960s and 1970s, the era in which Edgar came politically of age, culminating in his six years as a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.


Returning to the simple old political themes from his salad days of chronic protest is no doubt reassuring to Edgar. Still, unaware of the irony, Edgar insists in his fundraising letter that “easy certainty” has led to many human disasters: communist and Nazi genocide, along with Islamic fundamentalist suicide bombers. This assertion is remarkable, not only for its implied comparison of conservative Christians to mass murderers, but also because it is a rare occasion for the NCC to criticize communism and radical Islam!


EDGAR BOASTS OF THE NCC’S STRUGGLE against the “tragic ‘easy certainty’” of the “war of liberation” in Iraq, ostentatiously putting quotation marks around “liberation.” Liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam was never a major concern for the NCC. Incredibly, Edgar also brags that the NCC helped tsunami victims in Africa because it rejects the “religious fundamentalist confidence that disasters... are to be welcomed as ‘end-times signs’ pointing the select few towards the paradise beyond Armageddon.”


Who are these Christian monsters who rejoice over natural disasters and the deaths of innocent thousands? Edgar does not name them, of course. At this point, it is easy to suspect that Edgar does not actually know any conservative Christians, so he must rely exclusively on angry stereotypes constructed by his secularist neighbors in Manhattan. But perhaps that is a generous interpretation.


Edgar regrets that “progressives and moderates” underestimated the political impact of the “gospel of easy certainty.” But “progressives and moderates” (i.e. liberals) in the faith community were energized by the 2004 presidential election and increased voter turnout “dramatically,” he enthuses.


Promising a “positive vision of a world built on justice and compassion, Edgar reveals that the NCC needs a “sustained investment” of $1 million a year to be truly competitive with the “Heritage/Cato/Institute for Religion and Democracy complex that sustains and backs the right wing agenda.”


Edgar proposes to set up a “24 hour dialogue team” that will confront the “biased statements” of Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson and Richard Land (an officer with the Southern Baptist Convention.). And he boasts of the NCC’s political e-mail organizing tool called, which he reports works “closely” with Distressed about the influence of Rush Limbaugh, Edgar also proposes to set up a “progressive faith radio.”


THE LETTER FROM EDGAR is formulaic, as most such fundraising letters are. It identifies the enemy (conservatives who are derided as “fundamentalists”) and offers the politics of the NCC as the savior. It also emerges out of the context of the NCC’s near financial collapse. When Edgar became NCC general secretary in 2000, the NCC was millions of dollars over budget. To survive, the NCC trimmed its spending from nearly $10 million to just over $6 million. Its staff has also fallen from over 100 persons to fewer than 40.


Under Edgar, giving from the NCC’s 36 member communions has declined by about one third, to less than $2 million a year. Edgar has shifted to reliance on foundation income and direct mail, which together provide more than what is received from churches. Groups like, the Sierra Club, the Tides Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, along with liberal celebrity donors such as Ben Cohen, Peter Yarrow and Vanessa Redgrave, have contributed heavily to the NCC’s anti-war advocacy, among other political causes.


Actual church members are becoming less and less important to the NCC’s survival. Secular foundations and non-religious celebrity donors are more important. With the consequent polemical demands of direct mail aimed at a mostly secular audience, Edgar’s rhetoric inevitably will veer even further left and away from any pretense of importance attached to promoting Christianity.


Mark Tooley is United Methodist director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.




Printed Matters (Christian Post, 050809)


“Why Don’t Catholics Buy More Catholic Books?” is the question that author Lauren F. Winner raises in Publishers Weekly (May 30). A celebrated memoirist who has chronicled her times away from religion, as well as in Judaism, and now in the Episcopal Church, Winner has little at stake in the Catholics-buy-Catholic issue, yet it is clear that what she writes has a bearing beyond Catholic circles.


Winner points out that religion book sales have boomed, and these books are now selling at mega-bookstores and in discount chains. An NEA report demonstrated that while poetry and fiction sales decline, religion surges. Among whom? The Gallup people say evangelicals make up 21 percent of the population and Catholics 25 percent, but it is the evangelical market that prospers.


Winner might have done better to contrast evangelical/mainline markets. Not often noticed, but certifiable here as elsewhere, is this: Sociologically, demographically (Mexican-American infusion aside), and culturally, American Catholics and mainline Protestants share similar ups and downs. Measure belief, participation, or anything else, and you will find twins. Winner quotes experts who point out that Protestantism has always been a reading religion, while Catholics put less emphasis on the printed page. She also quotes others who remind us that evangelicals are the most market-driven, marketing-astute sector in American religion — not much un-worldliness or otherworldliness there! They are gifted and zealous entrepreneurs.


Beyond the blockbuster-writing Rick Warren and the “Left Behind” book explosions, it is also evident that most of the evangelical books are geared toward women, and deal with the living of personal life. Winner claims that “about 80 percent of books are bought by women, [but] in the Catholic world almost all of the books have been written by men.” On the other hand, personal-life evangelical well-sellers are written by women, for women.


Catholic publishers are taking note, coming up with various new kinds of products, new ways of marketing. Winner does well at reporting on all these. My pondering leads me to add something not stressed in her round-up: For a third of a century, Catholics and mainline Protestants have tended to “bleed” into the culture at large more than have evangelicals. The evangelicals have created a kind of world-within-a-world, with celebrities, entertainers, endorsers, promoters, and authors of their own.


Check this out: If you hear of study groups and reading circles in Catholic and mainline Protestant churches, they are likely to be reading books with spiritual thrust, but directed to a market dubbed “public” or “secular.” So the stellar novel Gilead is more likely to be on the priest or minister’s recommendation list than are books by members of their own church written for members of their own church. Still, there are some first-rate authors and potential readers in “their own church” circles, and publishers seek them.




Martin E. Marty’s biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at Original Source: Sightings – A biweekly, electronic editorial published by the Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.




God’s Calling Not Top Reason for Church Movement, Says Study (Christian Post, 050912)


Research found the number one reason Protestant pastors leave their church is not because of God’s calling, but because they wanted to live or minister in a different community, according to a recent study featured in the October issue of Facts and Trends.


Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, noted that the results show that pastoring is much like any other job.


“People who work in real estate, manufacturing, marketing research, and other careers change jobs in order to move to a city they prefer, get a promotion, start a new company, find better working conditions, and make more money, among other reasons,” Sellers stated. “This study shows ministers take new jobs mostly for these same reasons.”


The second most listed reason was because of promotion, according to the study conducted by Ellison Research.


Twenty percent changed locations due to a promotion, and eleven percent moved for better pay and/or benefits, as contrasted with the 12 percent who said they felt God’s calling to switch churches.


Ten percent were fired or asked to leave, and the remaining 18 percent had other reasons, such as family’s needs, job frustration, church conflict, or seeking change.


The results of the study varied by denomination, according to Ellison. Methodists were usually transferred by the denomination (80 percent). Presbyterians and Lutherans wanted to live and work in a different region or type of community more than any other reason. Southern Baptists felt God’s calling twice more than average, but their most common reason was also a desire to minister in a different region or type of community. Pentecostal and charismatic clergy’s top reason for leaving was to plant new churches.


The research also found that the ministers of larger churches tended to have a longer tenure than small churches.


The average tenure was 19 years, but many pastors believed they needed longer tenures. Sellers also advised that denominations must be concerned with the short tenure length.


“Three out of four pastors who get their jobs assigned by their denomination believe they don’t have enough time at each church - that’s something these denominations need to consider as they move people around,” he said.


For the study conducted by Ellison Research, a representative sample of 872 ministers nationwide was surveyed.




Barna Book Discusses Pursuit of God Beyond the Local Church (Christian Post, 051010)


For decades the primary way Americans experienced and expressed their faith has been through a local church. That reality is rapidly changing, says the founder of the group whose published polls are most quoted within Evangelical circles.


According to a new book Revolution by Barna Group Founder George Barna, there is a group of 20 million Christians in America who are trying to find alternate ways to fulfill their spiritual thirst.


After having been personally frustrated by the local church, Barna initiated several research projects to understand what other frustrated Christians were doing to maintain their spiritual edge, and he realized that there was a large and rapidly-growing population of Christ-followers that want to follow in the footsteps of the believers in the book of Acts.


These “Revolutionaries” may leave the local church for alternate methods of faith expression and experience. Others stay on with the local church, but supplement with other modes of expression. In either case, revolutionaries simply have a wider range of options than do people who are solely focused on a local church, according to Barna.


“A common misconception about Revolutionaries is that they are disengaging from God when they leave a local church,” he stated. “Americans are leaving churches precisely because they want more of God in their life but cannot get what they need from a local church.


“They have decided to get serious about their faith by piecing together a more robust faith experience. Instead of going to church, they have chosen to be the Church that harkens back to the Church in the book of Acts.”


Currently, the local church holds two-thirds of the nation’s adults, but by 2025 it will lose roughly half, according to Barna. Meanwhile, alternative forms of faith will pick up, such as the phenomena as the house church, marketplace ministries, and increased Internet surfing to satisfy faith needs and interests.


The researcher said the movement is “robust,” “significant,” and even “more defensible than what emerges from the average Christian church.”


However, Barna cautions against assuming that all Revolutionaries have completely turned their back on the local church.


“The defining attribute of a Revolutionary is not whether they attend church, but whether they place God first in their lives and are willing to do whatever it takes to facilitate a deeper and growing relationship with Him and other believers,” he said.


He continued, “Our studies indicate that the vast majority of American churches are populated by people who are lukewarm spiritually. Emerging from those churches are people dedicated to becoming Christ-like, but who will leave that faith center if it does not further such a commitment to God.”


To possible critics of the movement, the book contends that Revolutionaries face the same chance of exposure to heretical teaching, isolation from a true community of faith believers, and reason to hoard material blessings, as do regular churchgoers.


“These are the very same problems that we identify among people who rely upon a local church to facilitate their growth,” he said. “We find plentiful evidence of unbiblical teaching in small groups, Sunday school classes and other local church venues. We know that few churched Christians give 4 percent of their income back to God, much less 10 percent. Most people attending worship services leave feeling that God was not present and that they did not personally connect with the living God. We have identified the relative absence of accountability within most congregations.”


However, Barna finds that the revolution has seen positive attributes in the believers, such as an intense pursuit of godliness, new networks of believers supporting each other, heightened financial giving to ministry endeavors, greater sensitivity to the presence of God in the world, a greater sense of freedom to be a genuine disciple in the midst of a secular society.


The challenges of the new movement are that it requires new ways of measuring how well the Church at-large is doing, and getting beyond attendance figures as the indicator of health, stated Barna. New tools and resources must be accessible to a growing contingent of people seeking to introduce their faith into every dimension of their life.


Revolution, published by Tyndale House, is what the author calls “a brief introduction to the most important spiritual movement of our age.” He believes that fifty years from now historians will look back at this period and label it one of the most significant periods in American Church history.


“I would not be surprised,” the California-based researcher noted, “if at some point this becomes known as the Third Great Awakening in our nation’s history. This spiritual renaissance is very different from the prior two religious awakenings in America, but it may well become the most profound.”




Confessing Movement (Wikipedia, 051000)


The Confessing Movement is a neo-Evangelical movement within several mainline Protestant churches to return those churches to what the members of this movement see as greater theological orthodoxy. It is a rapidly organizing force within the mainline churches. It relates and cross pollinates with other conservative movements such as Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Holiness groups, Anabaptists, and Fundamentalists, but also differs from the others in some aspects, especially in that its members are unwilling to leave their home denominations, unless forced out. Unlike many reform movements in modern times, which have splintered Protestantism into thousands of denominations, these groups are determined to stay and work for reform from within. At the same time many sadly admit that they may be unable to fully reform their respective churches, and that these churches will remain to the left of the Confessing Movements’ members.


The Confessing Movement should not be confused with the Confessing Church, a Christian resistance movement in Nazi Germany, nor the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, an unaffiliated group of pastors and theologians promoting a return to historic Reformation principles within the Reformed and Lutheran churches.




Within the mainline churches there is a large group of laity and a somewhat smaller group of clergy who feel that their denominations have been hijacked by those who, in their view, have ‘forsaken Christianity’ and embraced moral relativism to accommodate secular society. Church leaders such as United Methodist Bishop Joseph Sprague of Chicago and Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong are considered by members of the Confessing Movement to be apostate, and are rejected as spokespersons for the church. Although many issues are longstanding, the final straw which has provided the impetus that has galvanized church members into the formation of the Confessing Movement is the acceptance or the possible acceptance of homosexuality. The advent of female clergy was perhaps the major impetus that drove traditionalist members to seek to reform their denominations. Another part of the background of the movement is that from the 1950s to the 1980s mainline churches in the US lost many of their members, while conservative churches were growing. Some of the difference represents individuals moving from the more liberal to the more conservative churches. Some represents a general loss of evangelistic zeal in liberal thought. The confessing movement points to the shrinkage of the church as evidence of a wrong path taken, and seeks to bring the church back to its original confessions of faith.


A few liberal church leaders have taken steps to denounce, repress, or expel the Confessing Movement, but they face a grave difficulty, if they succeed, for expelling such a large segment of a mainline denomination would have obvious financial ramifications.


Many of these Confessing Movements derive a significant percentage of their budgets from the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a group founded by the prominent neoconservatives Michael Novak and Richard Neuhaus. In turn, the IRD itself is funded largely the by Scaife Family Charitable Trusts/Scaife Foundations, and to a lesser extent by the Smith Richardson Foundation. This has led to many moderates and liberals in mainline denominations to denounce the Confessing Movements as an attempt by well-funded outsiders to move mainline American Protestantism to the right, rather than a series of organically arising movements within various Protestant denominations as the Confessing Movements’ leaders often claim it to be.


By denomination




One of the fastest growing Confessing Movements is within the Presbyterian Church (USA). In February, 2002 more than 800 laity, pastors, deacons, and elders gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for the first National Celebration of Confessing Churches. Participating churches affirm that Christ is the only way of salvation, that the Bible is infallible in its teachings, and that sexual relations are exclusively for marriage.


More than 1,200 of the denomination’s 11,000 congregations have adopted such declarations and become part of a loosely knit Confessing Church Movement.


The books Union in Christ: A Declaration for the Church (1999) and A Passion for the Gospel: Confessing Jesus Christ for the 21st Century (2000), both by Mark Achtemeier and Andrew Purves have served as rallying cries for Confessing Presbyterians.




The Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church quotes Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, who said:


I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.


Leaders have included Thomas C. Oden, Maxie Dunnam, Bill Hinson, John Ed Mathison, Karen Covey Moore, William Abraham, and James Heidinger. The movement has been very successful in maintaining doctrinal standards and traditional United Methodist positions on theology and practice at the General Conferences in Cleveland (2000) and Pittsburgh (2004).




The newly-formed American Anglican Council states:


Here are the facts about the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) as it currently exists. It is a Church that is no longer in relationship with the majority of Anglicans worldwide. It is a Church that no longer turns to Holy Scripture for its guidance. It is a Church that has chosen the ways of man over the ways of God. It is a church that has undermined the institution of marriage. It is a church with which many worldwide Christian denominations have broken relations. It is a church that has lost its heart and soul and its commitment to making disciples and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.


See also: Continuing Anglican Movement


Church of the Brethren


Brethren Revival Fellowship was one of the earliest evangelical concern movements among the mainline Protestant denominations. It says:


Many within the Church of the Brethren have set aside a firm belief in the trustworthiness and authority of the Bible, and knowingly or unknowingly have embraced the historical critical views of biblical interpretation. There has been a drift from a balanced Biblical-Anabaptist-Pietist and Brethren oriented understanding of church and state, war and peace, church discipline, and New Testament ordinances (such as the three part love feast). The Church of the Brethren has moved from preaching the Gospel of reconciliation of individuals to God through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, to a human centered program of political involvement. We believe that cultural renovation begins one by one with personal conversion to faith in Jesus Christ. We are concerned about the diminishing membership and the need for revival and evangelism within the Church of the Brethren. It seems that many of our church officials are not ready to accept the fact that doctrinal beliefs and morality issues are affecting the giving and are contributing to the membership decline.




Conservative traditions have always been strong in the Lutheran synods of North America. Over the last two centuries, most of the many new synods were started by members who felt their synod was straying from Christian orthodoxy. The Evangelical Lutheran Confessing Fellowship (ELCF) is one of the more recent of these “reform” movements, inspired by the other Protestant “confessing movements” described in this article.


The ELCF was organized in Hamilton Square, Pennsylvania, in June, 2002 by about 60 pastors and laypersons who belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest and perhaps most liberal Lutheran body in North America. The goal of the movement is to persuade the ELCA to move its theology and teaching rightward, rather than seperation from the ELCA. According to their initial press release, a primary goal is to head off apparent movement toward formal recognition and ordination of homosexual clergy. [1]




United Church of Canada


United Church of Christ


The United Church of Christ has several Confessing movements including the Biblical Witness fellowship , the Faithful and Welcoming movement, and the Southern Conference Renewal Network


Uniting Church in Australia


After a 2003 decision not to make an outright ban on the ordination of practicing homosexuals, conservative members of the church formed The Reforming Alliance in order to discuss the issues and work out a strategy. This process was helped by another group called Evangelical Members within the Uniting Church in Australia (EMU) which had been formed in the early 1990s as a conservative response to what is seen as the church’s growing progressive stance.




Homage to the Amish (, 051112)


by Kathleen Parker


CHARM, Ohio - More appropriate names are hard to come by. In Charm, situated among the rolling hills of Holmes County - the largest Amish settlement in the country - life is postcard perfect and, yes, charming.


It is also, shall we say, a bit odd. Start here:


Imagine a world with no noise. Without sound except for wind, birds, the occasional dog or the clopping of horse hooves against pavement. A world without even the hum of a refrigerator, or the sloshing of a dishwasher, or the buzzer indicating that the dryer has finished with the sheets.


Not far from Akron as the crow flies - and a relatively few miles from city bustle as Google Earth would show - Charm is worlds away from the “here and now” most of us experience. Small black buggies that resemble oversized boxes pulled by retired racehorses are as commonplace as tourists’ cars.


Indeed, moving into Amish country is like stepping across a threshold into another dimension, a place where time stopped a couple of centuries ago. Anyone familiar with the movie “Witness,” starring Harrison Ford, knows the scenery: women in long dresses and bonnets, bearded men in overalls or black pants and white shirts.


The Amish, who neither watch television nor attend movies, and generally shun most of modernity, weren’t pleased when Hollywood - the ultimate den of iniquity - profited by exploiting their culture. Nevertheless, the movie, filmed in 1984 in Lancaster County, Pa., gave outsiders a peek at what can only be described as amazing: early America perfectly preserved in a technological age.


I was allowed a close-up glimpse while visiting Kent State University’s Tuscarawas campus in nearby New Philadelphia. Thanks to a generous “English” couple - what the Amish call the rest of us - who have ties with the Amish community, I was able to spend time in an Amish home.


My first comment to our hostess, Mary Yoder, was to note the silence, quiet so complete you can hear cells dividing.


“Some people can’t handle it,” she said matter-of-factly.


Most people probably couldn’t handle much of Amish life. No electricity, no telephone, no cars, no computers, no CDs or cell phones, no iPods, no Internet, no makeup, no tasteful highlights, no jewelry, no Manolos. Plain doesn’t come any plainer than this.


Nor life more arduous. We who work by sitting at computers and talking on phones don’t know from work - the kind that involves milking cows, baling hay, building barns, shoeing horses, canning, sewing, cooking, and giving birth at home and often. The Amish, who pile their plates with noodles and potatoes, laugh at the idea of “health clubs,” where people get on treadmills and lift weights to work off carbs.


To those accustomed to instant everything, such a life seems impossibly hard and, well, dull. And yet, you cannot spend time among the Amish and not think these people know something we don’t.


The Amish culture is most alien to us moderns in its patriarchal family structure. The battle of the sexes doesn’t exist, as gender and sex are not allowed to be controversial. Men have ultimate moral authority, and few would disagree that life is balanced unfairly for females, who often work double shifts, both helping with outdoor chores and tending to home and children.


Even the rules against mechanization get tweaked to benefit male-dominated enterprises, while those that might lighten women’s load are rigidly denied. The rationale is that compromises can be made as long as they benefit the Amish culture. Business is business, even here, and the Amish are widely recognized as savvy and entrepreneurial.


What is most striking about the Amish, in stark contrast to the broader American culture, is the centrality of family, the involvement of children in nearly all activities, and the concentration of most activities in the home - from birth to death, including eating, leisure, social functions and even church. While we leave sticky notes and voicemails as family members head in different directions, the Amish don’t stray far from home or each other.


Life is certainly not perfect. Amish are also human. They have some problems, including alcoholism as well as other health concerns, such as polio, possibly associated with their suspicion of vaccinations.


But as odd as the Amish life may seem to us, ours is beyond weird to them. What we take for granted as rights and choices are mortal sins to them. Divorce is taboo and abortion unheard of. Children aren’t shuttled off to day care, and the elderly die at home with family.


Somewhere between our ways and theirs is perhaps a different way that might make ours a saner world.




The flames of hate in Alabama (, 060216)


by Jeff Jacoby


Suppose that in 2005 unknown hoodlums had firebombed 10 gay bookstores and bars in San Francisco, reducing several of them to smoking rubble. It is not hard to imagine the alarm that would have spread through the Bay Area’s gay community or the manhunt that would have been launched to find the attackers. The blasts would have been described everywhere as “hate crimes,” editorial pages would have thundered with condemnation, and public officials would have vowed to crack down on crimes against gays with unprecedented severity.


Suppose that vandals last month had attacked 10 Detroit-area mosques and halal restaurants, leaving behind shattered windows, wrecked furniture, and walls defaced with graffiti. The violence would be national front-page news. On blogs and talk radio, the horrifying outbreak of anti-Muslim bigotry would be Topic No. 1. Bills would be introduced in Congress to increase the penalties for violent “hate crimes” — no one would hesitate to call them by that term — and millions of Americans would rally in solidarity with Detroit’s Islamic community.


Fortunately, those sickening scenarios are only hypothetical. Here is one that is not:


In the past two weeks, 10 Baptist churches have been burned in rural Alabama. Five churches in Bibb County — Ashby Baptist, Rehobeth Baptist, Antioch Baptist, Old Union Baptist, and Pleasant Sabine — were torched between midnight and 3 a.m. on Feb. 3. Four days later, arsonists destroyed or badly damaged Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Greene County, Dancy First Baptist Church in Pickens County, and two churches in Sumter County, Galilee Baptist and Spring Valley Baptist. On Saturday, Beaverton Freewill Baptist Church in northwest Alabama became the 10th house of worship to go up in flames.


Ten arson attacks against 10 churches — all of them Baptist, all in small Alabama towns, all in the space of eight days: If anything deserves the label of “hate crime,” obviously this does.


Or does it?


“We’re looking to make sure this is not a hate crime and that we do everything that we need to do,” FBI Special Agent Charles Regan told reporters in Birmingham. Make sure this is *not* a hate crime? If 10 Brooklyn synagogues went up in flames in a little over a week, wouldn’t investigators start from the assumption that the arson was motivated by hatred of Jews? If 10 Cuban-American shops and restaurants in Miami were deliberately burned to the ground, wouldn’t the obvious presumption be that anti-Cuban animus was involved?


Apparently Baptist churches are different.


“I don’t see any evidence that these fires are hate crimes,” Mark Potok, a director of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Los Angeles Times. “Anti-Christian crimes are exceedingly rare in the South.”


But are anti-Christian crimes really that rare? Or are they simply less interesting to the left, which prefers to cast Christians as victimizers, not victims?


A search of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, for example, turns up no references to Jay Scott Ballinger, a self-described Satan worshiper deeply hostile to Christianity, who was sentenced to life in prison for burning 26 churches between 1994 and 1999. The SPLC has claimed that the number of hate crimes in American is sharply underreported. Yet if Ballinger’s arsons weren’t “hate crimes,” what were they?


Running through the coverage of the latest church burnings is an almost palpable yearning to cast the story in racial terms. “Federal investigators are looking for two white men for questioning in connection with a string of church fires in central Alabama,” began a National Public Radio story on Friday. “Race may be a factor.” In fact, race seems not to be a factor at all — five of the churches had mostly white congregations, five were largely black. To a media ever ready to expose racism in American culture, the arsonists’ lack of regard for skin color must be maddening.


At times, the eagerness to make this a story about race is almost laughable. “The area is known as Alabama’s Black Belt because of its dark, rich soil and poor African American population,” the L.A. Times made a point of noting last week. On Monday, the Orlando Sentinel claimed that “some church members” think the fires are linked to the death and funeral of “civil-rights icon Coretta Scott King, whose late husband, the Rev.

Martin Luther King Jr., was a Baptist minister.”


In 1996, a spate of fires in the South was widely and falsely trumpeted in the media as an eruption of racism. “We are facing an epidemic of terror,” declared Deval Patrick, the Clinton administration’s assistant attorney general for civil rights. But as it turned out, there was no racist conspiracy. More than a third of the arsonists arrested were black, and more than half the churches burned were white. So perhaps it is progress of a sort that, this time around, the media are keeping in check the urge to cry “Racism!”


But real progress will come only when we abandon the whole misguided notion of “hate crimes,” which deems certain crimes more deserving of outrage and punishment not because of what the criminal did, but because of the group to which the victim belonged. The burning of a church is a hateful act regardless of the congregants’ skin color. That some people bend over backward not to say so is a disgrace.




UCC Loses 97 Members Since Affirming Gay Unions (Christian Post, 060310)


The United Church of Christ has lost nearly 100 member churches since it became the first mainline denomination to sanction homosexual marriages last July.


According to the latest figures released by Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the United Church of Christ, an evangelical renewal organization that offers and alternative to withdrawal, some 97 local parishes have already severed their financial and membership ties to the liberal denomination.


Speaking to a group in Andover Congregational Church in New Hampshire this week, the Rev. Dr. Bob Thompson, head of Faithful and Welcoming Churches, said the UCC has a “crisis of lost churches, lost funds and lost unity brought about by the actions of our national leadership,” according to the Union Leader news agency.


“It is wrong, unbiblical, and at best, divisive ...,” Thompson said of the non-binding resolution adopted by 80 percent of the 884-member General Synod. The resolution calls for member churches to consider wedding policies “that do not discriminate against couples based on gender” and to work against laws banning gay marriage.


The United Church of Christ was formed in 1957 with 2.1 million members and 7,000 congregations. The denomination has since lost nearly half its members and now has only about 5,600 congregations with less than 1.2 million members.


The first actively gay minister in the UCC was ordained in 1972, and by 1985 the church adopted an “open and affirming” position toward homosexuals. However, according to Thompson, less than 10 percent of the congregations adopted that policy.


Thompson is among those who disagree with the church’s policies, but wishes to stay within the historic denomination. According to its website, Faithful and Welcoming’s primary reason is so a local church can distance itself from the “controversial resolution and marketing of the national and regional settings of the church” while providing an alternative to withdrawal from the UCC.


Therefore, Thompson explained that the reason his group publishes the list of churches that withdrew from the UCC is not to encourage others to follow suit, but rather to sound the alarm about the current crisis in the denomination.


“We are for churches that want to stay,” Thompson said. “Give us time to increase activity in the association, change your church bylaws ... we do not suggest churches withhold funds, but if it is the only option to withdrawal, that is better and gives you more time to work through this.”


Unlike most other denominations, congregations in the UCC can vote to leave the larger church without fear of losing their property.




Nation’s 1st ‘gay’ TV network rejects church’s ‘pro-gay’ ad: Homosexual-friendly commercial labeled ‘political,’ violates guidelines – ‘disparaging to another religion’ (WorldNetDaily, 060410)


Homosexual-rights activists have been taken aback by the decision of Viacom’s LOGO television channel to reject an ad from the United Church of Christ targeted to “gays.”


A LOGO sales associate for the MTV-operated network informed UCC it would not be able to air the 30-second commercial, called “Ejector,” “because of the political nature of its content.”


“Our guidelines state we will not accept religious advertisements that may be deemed as disparaging to another religion,” UCC was told.


Ron Buford, who directs the denomination’s Stillspeaking Initiative, says the church’s new ad uses humor to convey a message of “extravagant welcome.” “God doesn’t reject people,” he said. “Neither do we.”


The commercial features several short vignettes of people attending a traditional church service and finding themselves unwelcome. A black mother and her crying baby, an Arab American and a person in a walker are sent off into the air when someone pushes an “ejector” button. The ad switches to a friendly, diverse congregation and the voiceover says, “The United Church of Christ – no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.”


The UCC was the first mainline denomination to sanction homosexual marriage last July, having also been the first to ordain openly gay ministers in 1972. Its “open and affirming” position toward homosexuals, passed in 1985 by the national body, has been adopted by fewer than 10 percent of the UCC churches.


Since July’s vote to sanction same-sex marriage, 97 congregations have pulled out of the denomination.


The UCC has a “crisis of lost churches, lost funds and lost unity brought about by the actions of our national leadership,” said Rev. Dr. Bob Thompson of Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory, N.C., who heads up the Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the United Church of Christ, an evangelical renewal organization that is tracking the UCC exodus.


UCC has spent $1.5 million on the “Ejector” ad, which is scheduled to run through the Easter season on CNN, USA, TNT, BET and eight other cable networks. The two leading Spanish-language channels, Telemundo and Univision refused to carry it, although UCC has scheduled showings on smaller Spanish-language outlets.


But it is the rejection by the “gay” network that most baffled Buford, who insists “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons” need a welcoming, affirming Christian message,


“I guess the idea of ‘gay’ TV doesn’t really mean it’s your community’s network,” Buford said. “It’s just something that’s targeted at you to sell product.”


A similar campaign in 2004, featuring bouncers outside a church who stopped same-sex couples, racial minorities and others from entering, was rejected by CBS and NBC for their broadcast, but not their cable, channels. A complaint by UCC against affiliates in Miami is still pending with the FCC.




Multiculturalism: The Next Generation of Churches (Christian Post, 070101)


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Today’s generation of students is more open to global awareness than any other generation before, according to a sought-after speaker and pastor.


Multiculturalism is not an unfamiliar subject among college students today nor is it an uncomfortable issue to address. Students at Urbana 2006 represent 144 countries but act as any other homogenous church would.


Ethnic diversity in the Christian context is not as easy for their parents’ generation.


“I believe it was Martin Luther King, Jr., who said Sunday morning is the most [racially] segregated time in America. That was in the 60s,” said the Rev. Terrence Nichols, pastor of New Hope Community Church in Vallejo, Calif. “Is that true still today? I believe we can say that it is in many places.”


For many, it is difficult for them to live in a multicultural world, said Nichols, because it means giving up a lot of one’s comforts.


“In all fairness, the black church still today in many areas is proud to be a black church,” he added. “They know how to do that and they’re not willing in many cases to be a multicultural church.”


And although Caucasian churches might aim for ethnic diversity, their dominant culture makes it difficult to create such an environment, Nichols indicated.


“So it’s a very difficult thing for a lot of Christians to grasp.”


On the other hand, it’s a different story for the Millennials.


“This generation of students really are global in their orientation,” commented Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.


The Internet, quick travel, and global network news makes the world smaller and enable the younger generation to connect globally, said Nichols.


While Nichols believes evangelical Christianity today has missed the mark when it comes to racial reconciliation, he said he applauds Urbana.


At Urbana, the triennial student missions conference co-sponsored by InterVarsity, participating students have come from all over the world to discover their divine calling. And for the last few days, they have openly addressed racial issues and sang worship songs in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese and African languages.


“People tell us Christian can’t meet across denominational boundaries ... and racial divisions,” Urbana emcee Greg Jao told students Saturday night. “This conference proves them wrong.” The statement was met by cheers and applause from the more than 22,000 attendants.


“God is doing a new thing and we’re seeing hunger coming forth from this new generation of postmodern young people,” Nichols highlighted.


“The next generation of churches is going to look totally different.”




When multiculturalism is conservative and christian (, 070104)


By Marvin Olasky


My fellow professors talk the talk of multiculturalism but don’t walk the walk when it leads them in directions they don’t want to go — toward what the left calls sexism, homophobia and Christian fundamentalism.


For example, the religious left often claims that U.S. and European Christians twisted Christ into a god made in their own image. The Huffington Post Web site ran a claim by liberal minister Jim Rigby that “many Christians seek a white male king” and (Europeans) “could not see Christ in non-male, non-European, and non-Christian people because they were limited by their theology.”


Rigby concluded with a call to teach our children to abandon “the dictator Christ of this culture.” But is the idea of God with authority the product of our culture? Last summer I worshipped at a house church in Beijing, and the previous summer relished a service in a Zambian megahut. Crucially, those Asians and Africans see Jesus as Lord, not just a pal. Secondarily, they have conservative positions on homosexuality, gender and other issues that are dividing the American church.


Penn State professor Philip Jenkins has documented the growth of non-European Christianity, most notably in “The Next Christendom” and “The New Faces of Christianity.” He argues, using demographic data and trends, that by the year 2050 only one Christian in five will be white and non-Latino, and that Asia, Africa and Latin America will be centers of Christianity, not Europe or North America.


This forecasting method has its limitations: Who knows what God will do? Furthermore, although the trends are bad, Europe may not yet be finished, and Christianity in the United States — despite many flaws — is still vibrant. Still, it would not be surprising in 2050 if China were the leading Christian country in the world. As an extension of current growth patterns, Jenkins’ prophecies are important, and his specific detail useful.


For example, Jenkins points out that the surging churches of the south are decidedly non-liberal in their theology: He quotes one African church leader saying, “We read the Bible as a book that comes from God and we take every word in the Bible seriously. Some people will say that we are therefore fundamentalists. We do not know whether this word applies to us or not but we are not interested in any interpretation of the Bible that softens or waters down the message.”


Jenkins challenges U.S. professors and pastors who talk about the non-Western world to become truly multicultural: Understanding Christianity “in its non-Western context is a prime necessity for anyone seeking to understand the emerging world. American universities prize the goal of diversity in their teaching, introducing students to the thought-ways of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, often by using texts from non-Western cultures. However strange this may sound in terms of conventional stereotypes, teaching about Christianity would be a wonderful way to teach diversity.”


The difference between the dying churches of Europe and the livewires to the south is not just the headline-grabber concerning homosexuality. In Europe many see the Bible as ancient irrelevance, but I saw in Africa and China excitement as hungry readers devoured its message. Jenkins shows why: “Read Ruth, for instance, and imagine what it has to say in a hungry society threatened by war and social disruption. Imagine a society terrorized by a dictatorial regime dedicated to suppressing the church, and read Revelation: understand the core message that whatever evils the world may produce, God will triumph.”


That core message is vital in the West as well. We need to rediscover the sense of immediacy evident when members of an African congregation heard the reading of Paul’s regards to the Corinthians: “My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.” They answered in unison: “Thank you, Paul.”




Multiculturalism: The Next Generation of Churches (Christian Post, 070104)


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Today’s generation of students is more open to global awareness than any other generation before, according to a sought-after speaker and pastor.


Multiculturalism is not an unfamiliar subject among college students today nor is it an uncomfortable issue to address. Students at Urbana 2006 represent 144 countries but act as any other homogenous church would.


Ethnic diversity in the Christian context is not as easy for their parents’ generation.


“I believe it was Martin Luther King, Jr., who said Sunday morning is the most [racially] segregated time in America. That was in the 60s,” said the Rev. Terrence Nichols, pastor of New Hope Community Church in Vallejo, Calif. “Is that true still today? I believe we can say that it is in many places.”


For many, it is difficult for them to live in a multicultural world, said Nichols, because it means giving up a lot of one’s comforts.


“In all fairness, the black church still today in many areas is proud to be a black church,” he added. “They know how to do that and they’re not willing in many cases to be a multicultural church.”


And although Caucasian churches might aim for ethnic diversity, their dominant culture makes it difficult to create such an environment, Nichols indicated.


“So it’s a very difficult thing for a lot of Christians to grasp.”


On the other hand, it’s a different story for the Millennials.


“This generation of students really are global in their orientation,” commented Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.


The Internet, quick travel, and global network news makes the world smaller and enable the younger generation to connect globally, said Nichols.


While Nichols believes evangelical Christianity today has missed the mark when it comes to racial reconciliation, he said he applauds Urbana.


At Urbana, the triennial student missions conference co-sponsored by InterVarsity, participating students have come from all over the world to discover their divine calling. And for the last few days, they have openly addressed racial issues and sang worship songs in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese and African languages.


“People tell us Christian can’t meet across denominational boundaries ... and racial divisions,” Urbana emcee Greg Jao told students Saturday night. “This conference proves them wrong.” The statement was met by cheers and applause from the more than 22,000 attendants.


“God is doing a new thing and we’re seeing hunger coming forth from this new generation of postmodern young people,” Nichols highlighted.


“The next generation of churches is going to look totally different.”




Mainline Body Embracing New Ways to Do Church (Christian Post, 070130)


One of the largest mainline denominations has embraced innovation, a characteristic more common among postmodern churches, to connect with the people in the pews.


The United Methodist Church launched a revolutionary new website,, on Monday to make church available to congregants 24-hours-a-day amid reports indicating continual losses in mainline pews on Sundays. And the site’s biggest feature is what UMC leaders say is the first major faith-based social networking system developed by a mainline denomination.


“We think that these changes are revolutionary in that we are dealing with and combining information that people from the grassroots say they want in the way they want it,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn., during a press conference Monday.


While a website is nothing new for United Methodists, the new facelift comes out of years of conversation and research with lay people, and not clergy, to cater the site towards congregants around the world moreso than just those from the pulpit.


“This website is not based upon what the administrators of the church believe people need to know about us as an institution so much as it is built upon the request of the people who use the site telling what they want to know,” added Hollon.


Two years in the making, – a $250,000 site – was designed from the response of more than 250 denominational members.


“A new is about community,” said Hollon. “To put it simply, [it] is informational and relational.”


Other features besides the social network include a page to search for volunteer opportunities worldwide, stories of United Methodists, a global map telling visitors what’s happening where and providing missionaries biographies, a “Methopedia” (Methodist Encyclopedia), and a find a church page among others.


Taking further steps to reach the Millennials, a tech-savvy generation that many mainline denominations have struggled to maintain or grow, United Methodist Communications also plans the launch of a youth site before June.


“A youth need isn’t exactly the same need as somebody who’s ... been seasoned in the church,” said Matt Carlisle, director of Web Ministry for United Methodist Communications. “They really need a different experience.”


Some predict dissonance between the old traditional denomination and a 21st century approach. Hollon, however, says the churches are already moving into the digital age.


“The challenge we have is keeping up with the church,” he commented.


While United Methodists among other mainline groups may still not yet be as up-to-date on multimedia and technology as other evangelical and postmodern churches, Hollon indicated that technology cannot replace real connections in the church. The online community is a “doorway” to the local church, and not the full embodiment of the church.


“An online community will never replace the church experience,” he said. “What we hope is those who use this doorway will move beyond the website to actual face-to-face contact.


“The way we all connect is face-to-face.”




UCC President to Speak at Gay Megachurch (Christian Post, 070201)


The president of the largest Christian denomination to endorse gay marriage will officially welcome a Dallas gay megachurch as a member Sunday.


The Rev. John H. Thomas of the United Church of Christ will be the first leader of a mainline denomination to address a predominantly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender congregation when he preaches at the Cathedral of Hope, said The Rev. Jo Hudson, the cathedral’s rector and senior pastor.


The cathedral, which claims 4,300 members and will be the fourth-largest in the UCC, decided to join last year after the denomination endorsed gay marriage in 2005. Thomas will preach at two morning services, and there will be a special service of induction in the afternoon.


“We believe the Cathedral of Hope’s acceptance into the United Church of Christ and Rev. Thomas’ visit are important steps in the ongoing journey to the full acceptance of LGBT people with the church and society as a whole,” Hudson said.


The Dallas cathedral bills itself as “the world’s largest liberal Christian church with a primary outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”


The Cleveland, Ohio-based UCC, formed in 1957 by the union of the Congregational Christian Churches in America and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, has 1.3 million members. The UCC has a tradition of support for gays and lesbians. It is distinct from the more conservative Churches of Christ, which has some 2 million members in the United States.




Megachurch Closed to Biblical No-Nos, Open to Others: Church attracts the trendy, the tech-savvy and controversy (Christian Post, 070219)


SEATTLE (AP) - Minutes before the pastor walks to the pulpit, loud indie rock blasts from speakers to a crowd of mostly 20-somethings. The band on stage wears black, and the lead singer, with his scruffy five o’clock shadow and hair slicked down in rock-star style, croons about Emmanuel and rejoicing.


Welcome to Sunday service at Mars Hill Church, where the worship band plays indie rock, churchgoers smoke outside, and the pastor looks more like the head of a fraternity than the head of an evangelical church.


In a liberal city notorious for being “unchurched,” and at a time when mainline Protestant churches have been in decline nationwide, this non-denominational mega-church has grown to about 6,000 people since it started in 1996. It’s a mostly young crowd who come to hear the music, charismatic preacher and conservative theology at Mars Hill.


With his football-player stature, clean-cut hair and jeans torn at the knees, 36-year-old pastor Mark Driscoll could easily fit into most Seattle bars.


And he sounds like it too.


His sermons refer to everything from Mac & Jack’s beer to women foiling their hair.


“Boaz has no game at all,” said Driscoll at one Sunday sermon, referring to a Biblical figure who was unresponsive to his wife, Ruth, when they first met.


“The way we do things has a very Seattle vibe to it, from technology, music to style,” said Driscoll, a Seattle native.


Driscoll preaches at the church’s flagship black warehouse in the trendy Ballard neighborhood, but people can also watch him preach through streaming video and read his blog on the church’s web site.


For members like Joy Pinkham, Driscoll’s teachings are culturally relevant.


“He teaches what the Bible preaches - he doesn’t sugar coat it,” said 21-year-old Pinkham, a preschool teaching assistant and hair stylist, who wore a mod bob with side-swept bangs.


Tattoos, punk rock and alcohol aren’t banned for this predominantly white congregation where more than half are between ages 21 and 30 and where many look like college students or yuppie hipsters.


“We take the Bible as literally true,” Driscoll said. “If the Bible doesn’t forbid something, we believe there’s a lot of freedom in cultural issues.”


It’s part of Driscoll’s conservative theology - a literal interpretation of the Bible where heaven and hell are very real, Mary was a virgin, and where sex before marriage and homosexuality are sins.


And it’s this theology, along with Mars Hill’s views on women, that have mired Driscoll and his church in controversy.


Women can’t be pastors at Mars Hill and are encouraged to submit to their husbands.


It’s raised some eyebrows on the blogosphere and among more liberal churchgoers in Seattle.


Not allowing women in church leadership is an injustice, said Adam Walker Cleaveland, a Presbyterian seminary student and blogger who has criticized Driscoll on his own blog.


The Bible is about adopting the ideas of Jesus Christ - like helping the disenfranchised - and not about taking the Bible literally, said Suzanne Gordon, 48, who attends a liberal Methodist church in Seattle.


“It’s a distortion of the Bible,” she said about conservative theology. “It’s not an open, thinking, questioning, evolving type of character,” she said.


Last year, comments Driscoll made on his blog prompted an online group called People Against Fundamentalism to threaten to protest outside Mars Hill, saying he was demeaning women, and bloggers to call him a fundamentalist and a misogynist.


Writing about the Ted Haggard sex scandal, Driscoll suggested that pastors sometimes stray because their wives “let themselves go.” About the Episcopal Church electing a female bishop, he wrote: “If Christian males do not man up soon, the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men.”


But Driscoll said he was misunderstood. “I didn’t say anything about his wife,” he said about the Haggard issue. “I was mortified that some people took it that way.”


Driscoll said he believes God appoints men to be senior leaders but there are many positions for women to also be leaders, including full-time ministry.


“Sometimes that gets misunderstood or sometimes misrepresented by people,” he said.


Mars Hill isn’t entirely unique - it’s part of a nationwide movement that started in the 1970s of post-denominational churches that are technologically savvy, have charismatic leaders and provide for people guidelines on how to live their lives, said Patricia O’Connell Killen, a professor of American religious history at Pacific Lutheran University.


In the Pacific Northwest, evangelical forms of post-denominational churches have grown since the 1990s, said James Wellman, an assistant professor of western religions at the University of Washington.


It’s the church’s by-the-book theology that many at Mars Hill say they find appealing.


Thomas James Wright said Driscoll’s preaching drew him to Mars Hill about three months ago.


“He’s unwavering on what the Bible says,” said the 20-year-old art school student clad in a black beanie. “A lot of churches these days have gone to just a positive preaching style where they kind of just talk more about creating positive things in your life.”


But critics like Gordon think it’s just flashy music and a charismatic leader that’s attracted a lost generation of young people to Mars Hill.


“They’ve found a way to market God,” she said.


But Driscoll argues that his young congregation wants simple answers and a chance to decide for themselves.


“You’re looking at a younger educated urban group that has been marketed, and pitched and sold,” Driscoll said. “They’re tired of all the slick marketing and pitches.”




Reports of Abuse in Protestant Churches (Christian Post, 070618)


A look at reports of sex abuse of minors from three companies that together insure the majority of U.S. Protestant churches.




Church Mutual Insurance Co.


• Total number of clients insured: 96,000


• Number of churches-worship centers insured: 95,000


• Number of other religious groups insured: 1,000


• Top five denominations insured: United Methodist — 10,000 churches; Southern Baptist — 9,600 churches; Assemblies of God, — 4,000 churches; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — 3,300 churches; Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod — 2,600 churches.


• Reports on sex abuse of minors: Company has received an average of about 100 reports a year alleging child sex abuse over the past decade.


• Other sexual misconduct: Company has received an average of about 100 reports a year alleging other sexual misconduct over the past decade.


• Total amount in claims paid: Declined to release because company deems figure proprietary information.




GuideOne Insurance Co.


• Total number of clients insured: 45,000


• Number of churches-worship centers insured: 43,495


• Number of other religious groups insured: 1,505


• Top five denominations insured: Baptist (all types) — 10,922 churches; Presbyterian_ 2,812 churches; Lutheran_ 2,665 churches; Methodist — 1,742 churches; Disciples of Christ/Christian Church of America — 1,391 churches.


• Reports on sex abuse of minors: Company has received an average of about 160 reports of child sex abuse a year for the past two decades.


• Other sexual misconduct: Company has received an average of about 40 reports of sexual misconduct each year for the past two decades.


• Total amount in claims paid: Over the last five years, GuideOne has averaged approximately $4 million per year in child sex abuse and sexual misconduct settlements, excluding attorney fees.




Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co.


• Total number of clients insured: 30,000


• Number of churches-worship centers insured: 27,000


• Number of other religious groups insured: 3,000


• Top five denominations insured: Southern Baptists — 4,000 churches; Assemblies of God — 2,300 churches;


• Non-denominational (churches that haven’t claimed an affiliation) — just under 2,300; United Methodist — under 2,000; Independent Baptists — under 2,000


• Reports on sex abuse of minors: Company has received an average of 73 reports of BOTH child sex abuse and other sexual misconduct each year for the past 15 years. The company did know how many of that total were child sex abuse cases and how many were other sexual misconduct because it doesn’t organize its data that way.


• Total amount in claims paid: Total of approximately $7.8 million has been paid out in claims for sexual misconduct and child sex abuse over the past 15 years.




Baptist Trustee Resigns Over Speaking in Tongues (Christian Post, 070622)


DALLAS (AP) - A pastor who has been at odds with the leadership of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over the practice of speaking in tongues has resigned from the school’s board of trustees.


The Rev. Dwight McKissic said in a resignation letter that he has been “distracted and consumed” by the controversy and needs to refocus on his family and church, The Dallas Morning News reported on its Web site Thursday night.


The letter was addressed to Van McClain, chairman of the Fort Worth seminary’s trustee board, the newspaper said.


In October, trustees voted 36-1 against any promotion of “private prayer language” at the school. McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, was the lone dissenter.


Speaking in tongues is a common among Pentecostals, whose more exuberant brand of Christianity is spreading in the U.S. and in foreign countries where Southern Baptist missionaries work.




Americans’ Confidence in the Church Reaching All-Time Low (Christian Post, 070627)


Americans’ confidence in organized religion and other institutions is down across the board compared to last year, a recent Gallup poll found.


Only 46 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in church/organized religion which is one percentage point of being the lowest in Gallup’s history since 1973.


Confidence in the church dropped in the wake of the television evangelism scandals of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It then fell significantly in the wake of revelations surrounding the Catholic priest abuse scandal in 2002.


The Gallup poll found that Protestants are more likely to express confidence in the church compared to Catholics. Confidence in the church or organized religion has dropped from 53 percent in 2004 to 39 percent today among Catholics. Among Protestants, confidence increased from 60 percent in 2004 to 63 percent in 2006 and then dropped to 57 percent today.


Americans express the most confidence in the military with 69 percent saying they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence. Americans are also more likely to have confidence in small business (59 percent) and the police (54 percent) than the church.


The largest drops in confidence between 2006 and 2007 are seen in ratings for banks (41 percent), the presidency (25 percent), television news (23 percent) and newspapers (22 percent). Americans show the least confidence in Congress with only 14 percent – the lowest in Gallup’s history – expressing confidence.


“These low ratings reflect the generally sour mood of the public at this time,” stated the Gallup report.


Results from the Gallup poll are based on interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 11-14.




Survey: Evangelicals Worry Most Over Health of Churches (Christian Post, 070821)


When it comes to what changes are “absolutely necessary” for the United States to address in the next 10 years, the most likely answer among Americans pertains to children’s future. Among evangelicals, however, the priority was much different, a new survey found.


Among various groups – including conservatives and liberals and blacks and whites – the latest Barna survey found that the most radical differences of opinion on what needs to change in America were between evangelicals and those who are not born-again Christians.


Overall, 82 percent of American adults said a change in the overall care and resources devoted to children is absolutely necessary in the immediate future. Evangelicals were 20 percentage points below in ranking that issue a top priority.


While enhancing the health of Christian churches was listed as the lowest priority among Americans (44 percent), evangelicals listed it among their highest priorities in changes that need to be addressed.


Also among top evangelical priorities was upgrading the state of marriage and families and improving the spiritual condition of the nation. In each of those cases, evangelicals were more than 30 percentage points more likely than other adults to identify those issues as an absolutely necessary focus for the immediate future. Improving the moral content of mass entertainment was also a top priority for evangelicals.


Some of the issues evangelicals placed at the lower end of priorities for change included protecting the environment (35 percent), improving the quality of public school education, and enhancing the lives of the poor and disadvantaged.


Meanwhile, 60 percent of other American adults said a change is absolutely necessary in the investment in environmental protection; 82 percent said the same on the issue of improving the quality of a public school education; and 69 percent said improving the lives of poor and disadvantaged people is needed.


“Overall, evangelical Christians stood out as the segment that holds views that are most dissimilar from the typical perspectives of Americans,” the Barna report stated. Evangelicals were at least 10 percentage points different from the national average in eight of the 11 issues tested. Atheists and agnostics held the same difference from the national average in seven of the issues.


The majority of Americans overall said it’s absolutely necessary to change national security in the U.S. (72 percent); the reliability and honesty in news reporting (63 percent); the state of marriage and families (60 percent); and the spiritual state of the country (53 percent).


“A majority of Americans said we need significant change in relation to eight of the 11 issues we posed to them,” said George Barna, who directed the study. “The desire for a new direction is harbored not simply by those on the ideological extremes, but by a majority of those who hold the ideological middle ground, as well. Americans contend that they lead a good life, but the survey points out that it is not necessarily their desired life, nor are they comfortable with the society they are leaving to their children.


Leading up to the 2008 presidential election, the study noted that the biggest issue Americans are concerned about (children’s future) doesn’t seem to be an issue presidential hopefuls are focused on.


“The challenge for today’s leaders is to find the intersection of doing what is right and best with doing that which is popular and achievable,” Barna continued. “The lack of a common vision for the future is making the identification of such common ground increasingly difficult, if not impossible.


“The presidential candidates seem to delve rather quickly into promoting programs rather than establishing a consensus around the ideal of what America represents and where it needs to go in the years to come,” the researcher continued. “Gaining widespread ownership of such a broad-based vision of the character and goals of the United States must be the starting point for rebuilding unity and strength within the nation.


“Providing a compelling and comprehensive notion of who we are as a people and what we stand for as a nation would be the most valuable contribution our leaders could offer,” Barna concluded.


The latest figures, which were released Monday, were based on a survey conducted in August 2007 among 1,000 adults age 18 or older.




Survey Reveals Which Pastors Get Paid Most (Christian Post, 071002)


Presbyterian senior pastors have a higher salary than those of any other denomination, a new survey showed.


The average salary for the head pastor in Presbyterian churches was $78,000 (plus housing/parsonage), according to Christianity Today’s latest church salary survey. Baptist senior pastors earned next to last with $67,000.


The survey found that Presbyterian churches have the highest-reported church income among churches with senior pastors, and some of that income goes to the head behind the pulpit.


Notably, however, while Baptist and Presbyterian churches that have youth pastors generate virtually identical church income, Baptist youth pastors earned near the top with a salary plus housing of $44,000 while Presbyterian youth pastors earned only $36,000.


“Apparently, though, Baptist churches value youth ministry more, because they pay their youth pastors 20 percent more,” according to Christianity Today.


Another surprising finding showed that female solo pastors earn more than their male counterparts. Although only 6 percent of survey respondents who identified themselves as solo pastors were women, they reported 10.4 percent higher total compensation and their average salary was 8.6 percent higher than men’s ($49,219 compared to $45,259). Total compensation, which includes health insurance, retirement and continuing education, for women was $62,472 while that of men was $56,558.


Kevin Miller, executive vice-president and publisher of Christianity Today International, said the explanation for the salary difference is likely to be regional. Solo pastors receive the highest pay in the New England and Pacific states, considering the higher cost of living, Miller noted. “And these regions probably have the greatest cultural acceptance of women serving as solo pastors.”


Nevertheless, the survey showed the still-prevalent cultural practice of paying women less than men. Besides solo pastors and secretaries, women were paid less than men in every other church position. Men earned about 30 percent more than women. Among senior pastors, men earned an average of $81,432 (salary plus benefits) while women earned only $66,218. Also, male custodian/maintenance workers earned an average of $36,057 compared to the $26,175 annual compensation for their female counterparts.


On another note, the survey found that the higher education a pastor has, the higher salary he or she earns. An additional college degree earns a pastor $7,000 to $15,000 more per year. Pastors with a bachelor’s degree get a 10 percent boost in income and those with a master’s degree get a 20 percent increase. And a doctorate degree results in an additional 15 percent boost.


The 2008 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, which releases this month, provides church employee compensation breakdowns for part-time, full-time, church size, income budget, and geographical setting. The report is based on research among nearly 2,100 American churches. It presents data on 13 church positions based on research among nearly 2,100 American churches that were surveyed between January 2007 and May 2007.




A Shocking “Confession” from Willow Creek Community Church (, 071030)


By Bob Burney


If you are older than 40 the name Benjamin Spock is more than familiar. It was Spock that told an entire generation of parents to take it easy, don’t discipline your children and allow them to express themselves. Discipline, he told us, would warp a child’s fragile ego. Millions followed this guru of child development and he remained unchallenged among child rearing professionals. However, before his death Dr. Spock made an amazing discovery: he was wrong. In fact, he said:


We have reared a generation of brats. Parents aren’t firm enough with their children for fear of losing their love or incurring their resentment. This is a cruel deprivation that we professionals have imposed on mothers and fathers. Of course, we did it with the best of intentions. We didn’t realize until it was too late how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self assurance of parents.




Something just as momentous, in my opinion, just happened in the evangelical community. For most of a generation evangelicals have been romanced by the “seeker sensitive” movement spawned by Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. The guru of this movement is Bill Hybels. He and others have been telling us for decades to throw out everything we have previously thought and been taught about church growth and replace it with a new paradigm, a new way to do ministry.


Perhaps inadvertently, with this “new wave” of ministry came a de-emphasis on taking personal responsibility for Bible study combined with an emphasis on felt-needs based “programs” and slick marketing.


The size of the crowd rather than the depth of the heart determined success. If the crowd was large then surely God was blessing the ministry. Churches were built by demographic studies, professional strategists, marketing research, meeting “felt needs” and sermons consistent with these techniques. We were told that preaching was out, relevance was in. Doctrine didn’t matter nearly as much as innovation. If it wasn’t “cutting edge” and consumer friendly it was doomed. The mention of sin, salvation and sanctification were taboo and replaced by Starbucks, strategy and sensitivity.


Thousands of pastors hung on every word that emanated from the lips of the church growth experts. Satellite seminars were packed with hungry church leaders learning the latest way to “do church.” The promise was clear: thousands of people and millions of dollars couldn’t be wrong. Forget what people need, give them what they want. How can you argue with the numbers? If you dared to challenge the “experts” you were immediately labeled as a “traditionalist,” a throwback to the 50s, a stubborn dinosaur unwilling to change with the times.


All that changed recently.


Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder: it seems that the “experts” were wrong.


The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:


Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.


If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker sensitive” model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:


We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.


Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth.


Just as Spock’s “mistake” was no minor error, so the error of the seeker sensitive movement is monumental in its scope. The foundation of thousands of American churches is now discovered to be mere sand. The one individual who has had perhaps the greatest influence on the American church in our generation has now admitted his philosophy of ministry, in large part, was a “mistake.” The extent of this error defies measurement.


Perhaps the most shocking thing of all in this revelation coming out of Willow Creek is in a summary statement by Greg Hawkins:


Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.


Isn’t that what we were told when this whole seeker-sensitive thing started? The church growth gurus again want to throw away their old assumptions and “take out a clean sheet of paper” and, presumably, come up with a new paradigm for ministry.


Should this be encouraging?


Please note that “rooted in Scripture” still follows “rethink,” “new insights” and “informed research.” Someone, it appears, still might not get it. Unless there is a return to simple biblical (and relevant) principles, a new faulty scheme will replace the existing one and another generation will follow along as the latest piper plays.


What we should find encouraging, at least, in this “confession” coming from the highest ranks of the Willow Creek Association is that they are coming to realize that their existing “model” does not help people grow into mature followers of Jesus Christ. Given the massive influence this organization has on the American church today, let us pray that God would be pleased to put structures in place at Willow Creek that foster not mere numeric growth, but growth in grace.




Rick Warren’s Inquisition (WorldNetDaily, 071130)


While mega-pastor Rick Warren has joined a group of 100 church leaders calling for interfaith dialogue and the building of “common ground” with Muslims, he has a slightly different outlook toward Christians with whom he disagrees.


In his latest missive to fellow pastors, he writes: “You’ve got to protect the unity of your church. If that means getting rid of troublemakers, do it.”


“As pastors, as shepherds of God’s people, it’s our job to protect our congregations from Satan’s greatest weapon – disunity,” he writes. “It’s not always easy, but it’s what we’ve been called to do.”


I may not be pastor of a mega-church, but, I’ve got to tell you, Rick Warren’s priorities and sensibilities and his biblical literacy and standards are upside-down, inside-out and twisted beyond anything remotely connected with Scripture. And I’m not afraid of his threats of ex-communication from the new papacy he apparently seeks to create.


Warren cites Paul’s advice in II Timothy 2:23-26 as the basis for when and how “pastors” should draw the line on disagreements among the flock. However, Paul was addressing Timothy not as a “pastor” or “priest,” but rather as an itinerant evangelist doing his utmost to spread the Gospel to non-believers.


“But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.


“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,


“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;


“And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”


That happens to be excellent advice for anyone attempting to evangelize unbelievers. It is not, however, a call for church “professionals” to declare themselves as founts of unlimited wisdom and infallibility in spiritual matters.


Likewise, he quotes from Titus 3:10-11 as the authority for getting rid of “troublemakers.” Yet, that Scripture is not referring to people contending for the faith. It is referring to heretics.


“A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”


Has it ever occurred to Rick Warren that pastors have been wrong? Has it ever occurred to Rick Warren that pastors might teach unbiblical principles? Has it ever occurred to Rick Warren no earthly pastor is the recipient of all Divine revelation? Has it ever occurred to Rick Warren that pastors have led entire flocks into grave error that may have eternal consequences?


Has it ever occurred to Rick Warren that he, too, might be capable of such mistakes?


Rick Warren makes a spiritually fatal error when he proclaims, without any biblical authority, that Satan’s greatest weapon is disunity. That is simply not true. The Bible reveals over and over again that even one spirit-filled believer can stand up against Satan. God is not impressed with numbers. He doesn’t need numbers for victory. He doesn’t care about big churches. He doesn’t care about the cathedrals of men. He wants numbers only because He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).


No, Satan’s greatest weapon is hardly disunity. His greatest weapon since his fall and since the Garden of Eden has been deception. In fact, Satan loves unity – as long as those unified are knowingly or unknowingly serving him. He’d love for all of us to “go to hell in a handbasket.”


Are more people led to death by debate within the body of Christ or by spiritual leaders who demand absolute obedience to themselves?


Paul warned us about this, too, in Acts 20:29-30: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”


For heaven’s sake, nothing could be clearer from Scripture than that no man has a monopoly on truth. That is why Paul even had to correct Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). Besides worshipping God, this would seem to be one of the principal purposes of the church.


The church is warned over and over about false teachers throughout the Bible. Surely Rick Warren is familiar with those warnings. Why would he assume all pastors to be righteous and assume all lay dissenters to be unrighteous?


And, equally curious, why does Rick Warren eagerly seek to find common ground with Muslim leaders while, at the same time, so ruthlessly advocating the disfellowship of Christian believers?




Russian Church Head Equates Europe’s Loss of Christian Roots to Signing ‘Death Warrant’ (Christian Post, 071207)


The spiritual leader of the Russia Orthodox Church has given an ominous warning to Europeans, urging them not to abandon Christianity or it risk being vanished from history.


Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II urged European nations to retain their Christian identity, claiming that the failure to do so would be akin to them signing their own “death-warrant.”


“Modern Europe will not create a new post-Christian culture and civilization but will simply vanish from history,” Alexy said at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow Wednesday evening, according to the Interfax news agency.


“Losing their Christian roots, the people of Europe will sign their own death warrant,” he added.


Religious groups, and notably the late Pope John Paul II, have lobbied European Union leaders to get a mention of Europe’s Christian roots in the EU constitution. Poland, Italy and Germany have also backed such a move, but have been blocked by France, Belgium and others who fear such a measure could discriminate against other religions and on longstanding national laws on division of church and state.


Pope Benedict XVI, in September, told thousands of Catholics that Europe faces a bleak future unless more children are born on the continent and its people return to faith in God and traditional values.


“Where God is, there is the future,” he said in an outdoor mass at an 850-year-old pilgrimage site in Austria.


More recently, the pope has strongly criticized atheism, saying it had led to some of the “greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice” ever known.