Correction: Billy Graham story
Eds: Members who used BC-Billy Graham-Church, sent Dec. 29 under a Dallas dateline, are asked to use the following story.
DALLAS (AP) — In a Dec. 29 story about evangelist Billy Graham changing his church membership, The Associated Press erroneously reported the location of Graham’s retirement home. The retirement home is in Montreat, North Carolina, not South Carolina.
Archive for December, 2008
Correction: Billy Graham story
According to its web site, The Freedom Forum is a nonpartisan foundation with “three priorities: the Newseum [a journalism museum in Washington], the First Amendment and newsroom diversity.”
So a few people are scratching their heads, trying to figure out why the organization, which has close ties to the Gannett newspaper chain, is giving $15,000 to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
The gift is only one of several surprising donations made by the organization, according to Jim Hopkins’ Gannett Blog.
An amazing little news brief just moved on the AP wire. But I’m not sure the AP writer realized it was amazing when he wrote it. According to the wire service, Evangelist Billy Graham, at age 90, is switching churches. America’s pastor is moving his church membership — after 55 years — from First Baptist Church in Dallas to First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, S.C.
The article suggests that the change of membership occurred because Graham lives far away from Texas. But I doubt that’s the entire motive.
The article says the new church is near Graham’s “retirement home in South Carolina.” There’s only one problem. To the best of my knowledge, Graham doesn’t have a retirement home in South Carolina.
Graham’s always lived far from Texas. He grew up in Charlotte. He attended Bible school in Tennessee. His ministry had its headquarters in Minneapolis. And he always kept a home in North Carolina.
Graham’s gigantic ministry these days is located in Charlotte, roughly 75 miles from Spartanburg. His mountain retreat in Montreat, N.C. is even farther away from Spartanburg, if my GMS (Google Mapping System) is working.
Graham, at age 90, isn’t in great health. It’s doubtful that he’s showing up for worship services in Spartanburg — even on Easter.
So, why was Graham a member of FBC Dallas? And why is he cutting ties now?
During the early years of his ministry, First Baptist Church in Dallas was the nation’s most prominent Southern Baptist megachurch, the most sought-after pulpit in all of Baptistdom. A really big deal. Graham embraced the church and kept his membership there throughout his long career. He was good friends with W.A. Criswell, the congregation’s longtime pastor and the most powerful pastor in Texas for much of the 20th century.
These days, the church isn’t America’s most prominent Baptist Church. In fact, it’s no longer Dallas’ most influential Baptist Church. And it’s new pastor, Rev. Robert Jeffress, made headlines during the last presidential campaign, just months after being picked to lead the church.
Jeffress denounced then-GOP front-runner Mitt Romney in the fall of 2007, telling his congregation: “Even though he talks about Jesus as his Lord and savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult.”
Jeffress, I understand, has made a few other comments since then that got folks riled up.
I’d bet Graham’s membership switch, in the twilight years of his life, has less to do with geography than theology.
DALLAS (AP) — Evangelist Billy Graham is changing membership from a Dallas church to one near his retirement home in South Carolina.
First Baptist Dallas said Monday the church was told by Graham’s personal assistant that the 90-year-old was switching to First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, S.C.
Graham joined First Baptist Dallas in 1953 during his first crusade in the city. The Rev. Robert Jeffress tells The Dallas Morning News that the church will “always treasure the relationship” with the preacher.
The pastor of First Baptist of Spartanburg, the Rev. Don Wilton, has preached for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
I get a lot of books sent to me, but this one was the weirdest — at least in 2008. It’s called The Second Coming: The Archangel Gabriel Proclaims a New Age. It purports to be a roughly 340-page-long Q and A session with one of history’s most famous heavenly messengers.
Gabe, we are told, is channeled by “Reiki Master and spiritual counselor” Robert Baker. The archangel, you’ll be surprised to learn, speaks and sounds a lot like a left-leaning, horoscope-reading, crystal-clutching, green-tea-sipping, incense-burning New Age baby boomer from California who has picked up a few too many good, good, good “soul vibrations.” (p. 310.)
Here’s a sampling of Gabe’s wisdom: Cancer and all diseases are simply “illusions.” (p.214) So as you “dip into the sea of possibility and probability where reality is concerned… You don’t want to focus on the cancer. You want to focus on the healing, on the solution. You can surround the cancer cells with absolute love. Embrace them with absolute acceptance, nurturing, and love so that you are not fighting them.” (p. 228)
Uptight Floridians aren’t just messing up presidential elections. They’re also causing hurricanes. “Where Florida is concerned, there is a lot of emotional blockage, resistance to feelings,” he says. And people who hold it all in, instead of letting it all hang out, unleash meteorological havoc. “You have storms. You are creating a mutation of weather through what you are holding inside.” (p. 290) All that pent up “emotional turmoil” and “emotional blockage” near the “Atlantean vortex” and the Bermuda Triangle’s “doorway in time and space” can’t be good for the planet, Gabriel suggests. (p. 290-291.)
Dennis Kucinich was the best choice for president in 2008, but he didn’t win because the election was rigged. (p. 322).
Does all of the above sound slightly nutty? Gabriel knew you probably wouldn’t get it. “You see, the masses as a whole are not all at the level of soul evolution that approximately one third of the planet is at,” he writes. “But all you need is that one third to create a quantum shift.” (p. 96)
And yes, there’s a lesson for people of faith in this latest publishing nightmare, that I’ll get to in a moment.
Angel At the Fence — the latest fraud — is the second bogus Holocaust memoir to be exposed this year. (see AP story below) The first involved a woman, Misha Defonseca, who claimed to have been raised by wolves during World War II.
Surviving With Wolves: The Most Extraordinary Story of World War II is still available on Amazon.com and it is a most extraordinary fraud.
Angel at the Fence, by Herman Rosenblat, is another flaming whopper. “I wanted to bring happiness to people,” Rosenblat said, explaining why he had lied to millions of people via Oprah and other outlets.
On Dec. 14, the New York Times had a front-page story about the alleged increase in church attendance due to the economic meltdown. Soon thereafter, CNN hopped on the story, too. I was skeptical that attendance is really up. I still am. Apparently, the Gallup organization has its doubts too, according to this article in Slate.
Assistant Economics Professor David Beckworth of Texas State University in San Marcos has written a paper arguing that the rate of growth at evangelical churches increases during recessions and that the rate of decline decreases at mainline churches. Beckworth was reviewing data from an era when evangelical churches were growing and mainline churches were in decline. Mainline churches, of course, are still in decline. What’s changed is that white evangelical churches are no longer growing. This is due to a number of factors, including lower birth rates and (believe it or not) the decline of mainline churches. Many of those “new” evangelicals were simply “old” mainliners who had switched churches. As the pool of potential mainline “converts” shrinks, it’s harder for evangelical churches to find new members.
The real question, I think, is whether the recession will help slow the evangelical church decline that appears to be looming. (For more on this topic, there are several recent books, including “The American Church in Crisis” by David T. Olsen.)
The Obama-Warren “controversy” continues. As I’ve noted previously, I’m surprised that activists would expect Obama to have a gay marriage litmus test for his administration, excluding tens of millions of people — the vast majority of Americans — who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Such a stance, politically, would be disastrous for Obama.
NEW YORK (AP) — Gay-rights activists remain hopeful about the Obama presidency but are now more wary after what one called a “double punch to the gut” — the choice of a pastor they consider hostile for a prime inauguration role and dashed hopes for the first openly gay Cabinet member.
Enthusiasm among gays over Barack Obama’s election has deflated rapidly in the days since his inaugural organizers announced that the invocation would be delivered by the Rev. Rick Warren, a prominent pastor who backed a recent ballot measure banning same-sex marriage in his home state of California.
The Warren announcement coincided with the final round of Obama’s Cabinet selections — confirming that gays on the short list for interior secretary and labor secretary would not get those posts.
“It felt like a double punch to the gut,” said Denis Dison of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports openly gay political candidates. “People were afraid at that moment — we didn’t know what it portended for the administration ahead.”
Obama said Warren’s selection reflected a desire for diversity at the inauguration and insisted he remained a “fierce advocate” of equal rights for gays.
That advocacy includes support for gay activists’ key legislative goals: outlawing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, expanding the federal hate-crimes law to cover anti-gay violence, extending federal recognition to same-sex partnerships, and repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars service members from openly acknowledging they are gay.
Gay-rights leaders said the furor over Warren might prompt the Obama administration to be more attentive to their concerns, and they will be watchful to see what develops.
“We are prepared to hold feet to the fire on the issues that are critical to our community,” said Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It’s our responsibility to stay in the face of the administration.”
“We have a right to expect a great deal from people who say they’re our friend,” said Kevin Cathcart, executive director of the gay-rights group Lambda Legal. “Maybe this is an important wakeup call to people in the transition about the weight their actions carry.”
Before last week, many gay leaders were satisfied with Obama’s transition team — there were joint meetings on gay-rights priorities and complimentary remarks when a task force submitted the names of gays and lesbians to be considered for high-level political appointments.
Among the names were at least two serious contenders for Cabinet posts — John Berry, director of the National Zoo, for interior secretary, and Mary Beth Maxwell, executive director of American Rights at Work, for labor secretary. Those posts went to other candidates, and the only openly gay person to get a high position thus far is Los Angeles deputy mayor Nancy Sutley, Obama’s pick to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
When the Cabinet-to-be was completed, and Warren was announced as an inaugural VIP, the high spirits were swiftly replaced by a swirl of mixed emotions. Christine Quinn, the openly gay speaker of New York’s City Council, said she felt schizophrenic.
“I’m so excited about President-elect Obama — yet one day you wake up and there’s this incredibly disappointing thing,” she said. “We’re not going to say, ’Forget it, we’re done with Obama.’ But it’s very disappointing. There’s no way to sugarcoat that or pretend it isn’t the case.”
The president of the largest national gay-rights group, Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, suggested the gay community’s expectations for Obama were so high that a setback was unsurprising.
“Maybe we’ve built this person up to a degree that we forget Barack Obama is a politician who sometimes does expedient things,” Solmonese said. “We have a responsibility to express our anger and disappointment and then figure out a way to move forward.”
In a video message to his church posted online late Monday, Warren said that disagreeing with gay-rights activists on same-sex marriage does not qualify as hate speech and doesn’t mean he is anti-gay. He said Obama chose him to give the invocation at the swearing-in to show that people with different views don’t have to demonize each other.
Several activists noted that the Warren controversy had a precedent in 2007, when the Obama campaign angered gays by deploying Donnie McClurkin, a gospel singer who maintained homosexuality is a choice, at campaign concerts in South Carolina.
“You’d expect smart people to have learned from that experience,” said V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop. “This wouldn’t have been as powerful for us had that earlier experience not taken place — it stirs up all those feelings again.”
Robinson, an Obama backer, says he was stung by Warren’s selection but remains confident Obama will prove to be the most supportive president ever for gay-rights causes.
Ethan Geto, a New York-based activist who initially served as an adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton but later joined Obama’s campaign, said the president-elect is “viscerally committed” to expanding gay rights.
“It may very well be that Obama starts his administration with a heightened level of sensitivity to the gay community, because of the community’s genuine distress over Rick Warren,” Geto said.
Some gays and lesbians have reacted to the Warren situation in conciliatory fashion.
For example, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge — writing Monday in the Huffington Post — said she was impressed by Warren’s warmth during a recent encounter and decided she would attend Obama’s inauguration.
“Before we change minds we must change hearts,” Etheridge wrote. “Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands.”
Also bound for the inauguration is a 177-member contingent representing the Lesbian and Gay Band Association — it says it will become the first gay/lesbian group ever to march in a presidential inaugural parade.
Judy Ames, a clarinet player, said she and her colleagues decided not to heed calls from activists to boycott the parade as a protest against Warren.
“Barack Obama clearly values diversity, and challenges us to do the same,” she said. “We earned a spot in the parade as musicians — we feel very proud.”
I visited a church Sunday that passed out a two-page list entitled “2008 Year End Gift Ideas.” Apparently, the congregation has been nice, not naughty, because it’s got a spendy Christmas wish list.
If Santa stops by, here’s what they’d like:
Gifts of Cash
Gifts of Stock
Gifts of Real Estate
Charitable Remainder Trusts
I’ve been asked a thousand times at churches: “If you died today, do you know where you’d go?” But this flyer was asking: “If you died today, do you know where your money would go?”
Blogger/advocate/theologian Jerry Eckert has written an interesting post about the controversy surrounding Rick Warren’s upcoming prayer during the Obama inauguration.
It’s an interesting take on the brouhaha and I enjoyed it. I’d also like to thank Mr. Eckert for placing my on his blog list.
President-elect Barack Obama is getting a lot of heat from the gay community for inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. They object to Warren primarily because Warren believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
If Warren has a place at Obama’s table, leading gay rights activist Joe Solmonese said, it suggests gays and lesbians have no place at the table.(click here for Solmonese’s complete statement.) Nonsense, Obama replies. The table is big enough for both sides.
Strategically, Obama’s move is probably smart politics.
Eleven parishes that broke away from the Episcopal Church in Virginia have won another legal round. This case probably won’t have major repercussions outside of Virginia however. Here’s why. Virginia has a statute that allows the majority of a congregation to keep the property whenever there is a “division” within a denomination. A division within a congregation is not enough, if I understand it correctly. It must be a division within a national body.
They don’t get any closer than this. With millions of votes cast, Republican Norm Coleman now holds a 5 vote lead over Al Franken in the race for U.S. Senate.
Elections officials are reviewing hundreds of ballots that are in dispute, because the voter failed to correctly follow the directions on the ballot. Instead of filling in the oval, they put a check mark. Or they wrote in a Hollywood actor’s name AND voted for one of the real candidates. One of the Twin Cities papers the Star-Tribune is posting the disputed ballots online. Readers can see how the elections board ruled and they can vote on whether or not the ballot should have been counted. In this ballot, for example, somebody apparently thought it would be funny to write in Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame. The voter did not fill in the oval next to the written-in actor’s name, which makes me think the write-in was meant to be a joke. Instead, the voter filled in the oval next to Al Franken’s name. But because there was doubt, at least in the board’s mind, about the voter’s intent, the ballot was tossed out.
Paul Weyrich, the man who reportedly coined the term “Moral Majority,” has died. Weyrich was a leader of the Christian Right movement virtually since its inception.
Weyrich initially supported Mitt Romney for president in 2008, but later deeply regretted the move, according to an article in World Magazine. The better candidate, he told fellow activists, would’ve been Mike Huckabee.
An AP story about Weyrich’s death continues on the jump.
Florida church leaders were going to tell their congregation that an ex-member was living with a man she wasn’t married to. But she beat them to the punch, telling her story to a Jacksonville TV station instead.
A similar incident in Texas led to a lawsuit, which went all the way to the state’s supreme court. In Texas, at least, ministers are apparently free to publicly discipline or excommunicate churchgoers or former churchgoers. (Here’s a story about the Texas case.)
The Great Recession of 2008 is packing a wallop at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. The school’s estimated $97 million endowment has been hit hard by the stock market drop, and the school faces a possible $3.2 million deficit, according to Peter Smith at the Louisville Courier-Journal.
To read about the recession’s impact on the nation’s marquee Southern Baptist seminary, click here.
H/T: Caleb Powers