"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ergun Caner is "Back In Black"...and Yes, It Did Take More Than Edited Videos to Take Him Down!

Ladies and Gentlemen, our friend Ergun Caner is "Back in Black"...and as you'll see in the video below, "You Can't Touch This". Welcome back, friend!

Ergun was right when he said it takes more then edited videos to take him down! He made it back! Here is his latest message posted on his YouTube channel:
"No thanks to the frustrated basement bloggers, I have been the victim of a great deal of persecution. Just like Jesus. But as I said at the prayer breakfast in Bristol last week, it takes more than some edited videos to bring me down! Not sure how many apologetics videos I'll be able to do right now. As you can see, I haven't really settled into my new office yet, and still have a lot of boxes to put away. In the mean time, ask your pastor if he is looking for an expert on Islam to come speak to your church. I am, as always, for hire."
Seriously, some of you know of Todd Friel of Wretched Radio, and at the end of this clip you'll hear Todd's recommendation on what evangelical Christianity is to do with Ergun; this was broadcast on Todd's radio show about two weeks ago. When you hear a very smart evangelical who has no ties to the SBC or their cronies speak about Caner, you realize how badly the Caner defenders absolutely have their heads stuck in...the sand. Welcome back Ergun. We look forward to more videos.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

James White - Speaking the Truth on Ergun Caner

Below is yesterday's (9/27/10) video blog entry from James White's blog of Alpha and Omega ministries.

If you have followed the Caner debacle, you need to watch this video. It is a bit long, but what White says needs to be heard by evangelicals, especially those whose church Caner will be visiting to speak on his latest tour. White has some tough words to say, and unfortunately no one else is speaking these words in private to Caner thus White says them publicly.

I don't know James White, have never spoken to him, and he likely wants nothing to do with my blog. I never, ever heard of White until the Caner debacle began.

But thank you James White for speaking the truth. Too bad no one in the Southern Baptist convention or at Liberty is willing to do what you are doing. I guess they are all cowards, and don't want to pay the price for standing for the truth.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Caner Retaliates: Bloggers are "Frustrated People in their Basement" and "It Takes More than Edited Videos to Bring me Down"

Yesterday, Ergun Caner apparently decided to do what he told his church a few weeks ago that he would not do: he has decided to "take the bait and retaliate".

The Lynchburg News and Advance reported this morning that yesterday at a Bristol, VA prayer breakfast Caner addressed the Liberty University investigation, downplayed the seriousness of the allegations, took a swipe at his blogger critics, and basically said "any pastor in America" would be in trouble for lying if they listend to 200 hours of their sermons.

This sickens me. If you ever thought Caner was repentant for his 8 1/2 years of perpetual exaggerations to congregations all over the United States about his past, you were wrong. I will admit, I was wrong. At least Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker had the sense to appear as though they were repentant. Swaggart at least shed a few public tears and looked to the heavens and declared he had sinned. Not Caner. He is full steam ahead, attack the critics, mischaracterize the allegations that led to his dismissal as seminary president, and to top it all off, he feels compelled to brush all pastors to be just like him. Shameless, shameless, shameless.

Thank you Liberty University and Jonathan Falwell - you have created this monster by mishandling this entire fiasco. You waited to investigate until the main stream media got involved. You pooh-poohed the bloggers' claims until the press realized we were telling the truth. Then and only then did you do an investigation, but then refused to release any the investigative committee report findings, and simply slapped him on the wrist and kept him at your university. He now will use his position as "Professor at Liberty University" to continue his speaking circuit - and while he may tone down his rhetoric of being "raised in Europe" and learning of America from Turkish television - it seems he is content to use his engagements to mischaracterize what has happened in 2010 that led to his dismissal to rehabilitate his image and keep the gravy train rolling.

Let me say this as well: in the News and Advance article you'll read that he speaks of his conversations with the LU investigative team, and that Caner refers to "edited videos" as though somehow the evidence against him was manufactured. Well, I would like to speak about my knowledge of the evidence used by the LU investigative team, and I can assure it was not "edited videos". You see, like Caner, I too had conversations with the LU investigative team. I was contacted by a very respected member of the LU faculty whose last name everyone reading this would immediately recognize. In their quest of the truth about their seminary president the team needed to get copies of sermons that were not available on the Internet. This faculty member didn't apparently view me as a "frustrated person in his basement" and considered me a very reliable source for copies of complete, "unedited" sermons. This person told me that they did read the blogs but desired to get complete copies to hear Caner's statements in their full context.

This faculty member was very kind and gracious, and appreciative of me being willing to share information that had been removed from the Internet including the infamous FBC Jacksonville November 2001 sermon, and the four classic Caner sermons delivered to the the Ohio Free Will Baptist men's retreat in early 2007. So while Caner told the bunch up at Bristol that it was "edited videos" that couldn't bring him down, I can assure you, the committee investigating him sought original, complete, in-context statements made in his sermons. But he didn't tell the Bristol bunch that.

It is too bad that Caner is going this route. I don't know why he did not just come out after his month-long haitus following his dismissal as seminary president and make a blanket confession of exaggerations and ask for people to forgive him, and then move on. Instead it seems the approach is to take pot shots here and there at his critics, paint himself as a victim of frustrated bloggers out to "take him down", to continue to use congregations and speaking engagements to defend himself, and mischaracterize what happend this year. Perhaps he has every intention of still telling his stories - after all, yesterday at Bristol he rolled out the 'ole "Jesus died on a cross so I didn't have to strap a bomb on myself" routine.

Lastly, I want to make a comment about this statement from Caner:
“Every pastor in America, ask them if you can go through 200-odd hours of your sermons. Would they find where you said your kids’ names wrong or dates wrong? Yeah, of course. You just smile and move on.”
So his view is that if every pastor in America had an examination of 200 or so hours of their sermons, we'll find the same kinds of lies that were found in his. Well, I myself didn't have to go through 200 hours of your sermons, Ergun.

All I had to do was go through 0.75 hours, Ergun, when you came to First Baptist Jacksonville in November 2001, and lied to us about your past to convince us that you were a trained terrorist who was in Islamic Jihad, trained in Europe. That has nothing to do with your kids' names or dates. It has to do with you misleading us about your past, and who you were, which helped to create a caricature of yourself as a former terrorist trained in Europe in Islamic Jihad. And you still haven't apologized to the people of First Baptist Jacksonville for your lies in our pulpit in 2001 that helped launch you to SBC-stardom. I hope you have at least privately apologized to Jerry Vines, who sat behind you nodding and amening as you lied to our congregation that morning.

And Ergun, you're wrong about other pastors. None of my pastors - none of them - have ever lied to me about where they were raised, or born, or when they learned English, etc. None, not one, ever.

Pastors, I hope you appreciate Caner trying to lump you all into one category as being liars just waiting for disgruntled bloggers to dig up your lies. Sad that to defend himself, he is content in dragging his cohorts down to his level.

Shame on you, Ergun.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Financial Transparency Update: Bell, CA Mayor, Manager, and Councilmen Arrested - Including Local Pastor

In early August a story broke in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell, California, where the city manager, the sheriff, and city council members were found to be earning ridiculously high compensation packages. I blogged about this story here.

There was no local press or government watchdog group keeping an eye on City Hall - and thus the city officials used taxpayer money as their own private stash.

In this mostly poor immigrant city of 40,000 where one out of six residents is below the poverty level, the city manager was earning close to a million a year, the sheriff about 1/2 million, and the part-time council members were earning about $100,000.

This week the mayor, city manager, and some of the council members were arrested for misappropriation of public funds and conflicts of interest to the tune of about $5.5 million. The citizens celebrated in the streets when they learned of the arrests.

One of the city council members arrested was the local pastor of the Bell Community Church, Luis Artiga, pictured above.

The LA Times reported in August that Artiga was appointed to the city council to fill an expired term not knowing what his compensation would be, and when he got his first paycheck he thought it was "a miracle from God." According to AP, Artiga also received unauthorized loans from the city manager.

Why did this scandal happen?

It's very simple. Where there is little to no financial transparency with how servants use other people's money, the money will usually be misappropriated to some degree. This was an extreme case - District Attorney Steve Cooley called the Bell scandal "corruption on steroids". When spenders know the givers are watching how nickels and dimes are spent, these types of shenanigans are very unlikely.

As reported by AP:

"Since the scandal broke, public officials, city managers and others have said the situation in Bell showed why people must insist that elected officials communicate honestly and openly with them.

'One of the problems that was obvious with Bell was the lack of transparency and the lack of involvement on the part of the public,' Dave Mora, West Coast regional director of the International City/County Management Association, said recently.

Cooley praised the Times, saying the scandal occurred in part because residents and much of the news media paid little attention to what was happening at Bell City Hall until the story broke.

Rizzo, Adams and Spaccia resigned and the council members reduced their salaries to about $8,000 following the disclosures."

There is that word: transparency. Financial transparency, that is. It is all the rage in government. Texas governor Rick Perry was credited with starting the trend in 2006 when he started posting online his office expenses and salaries. Now most states have passed financial transparency laws "placing records of government expenditures within the reach of the curious on the Internet."

When will our mega churches and our convention agencies get on board with the trend?

Until they do, giving by churches and individuals won't be as high as it could be, and unnecessary expenditures will continue to consume too much of the money that is given. Talk to Mary Branson about the waste she saw at NAMB under Bob Reccord. And mega churches are becoming less transparent, not more. And those asking questions about pastor salaries, gifts, nepotism - well, they aren't too welcome anymore. Or their wives.

So are the SBC leaders more interested in protecting their turf and their salaries and their bennies than they are reaching the nations? If they are serious about spreading the gospel as effectively as they can, they should try a little more financial transparency, and a lot less guilting the sheep into giving using a false tithing doctrine based on Malachi 3.

I don't think they'll do that, however. Look what happened at Bell as described in the AP quote above: when the city officials had to be transparent with their incomes and subjected to close public scrutiny by the givers of the money, the council member's salaries dropped from $100,000 to $8000 in no time flat.

Amazing what a little financial transparency will do.

By the way, I wonder if Pastor Luis Artiga's church practices financial transparency now?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ergun Caner Speaks at "Value Voters Summit" of Family Research Council

Last Friday Ergun Caner spoke briefly at the "Values Voters Summit" of the Family Research Council held in Washington, D.C. He was one of about 39 speakers at the 3-day event. He carefully described himself as "Turkish, born in Sweden, immigrant, Yankee".

Below is the video of Caner's speech.

Caner used many of his same jokes, and had the religious right yuckin' it up at his cracks about him thinking a possum was a giant rat (common mistake), that he was fooled into snipe hunting by his church, how Baptists think chicken is the gospel bird, how little he understands women and how his North Carolina church played "torture the immigrant Yankee".

His message to the values voters was that as they stand up for their convictions in the political arena they should be like Stephen, willing to be persecuted for their faith. He used an alliteration to describe what they can expect: they are appointed, annointed, and armed by God, but they can expect to be abused and attacked for their views.

Caner told his audience their critics "will mock you, and stalk you on Twitter." Really? Values voters will be "mocked", and "stalked on Twitter"? Why would they be stalked on Twitter? How is someone stalked on Twitter? Or is he referring to his troubles earlier this year, that he like Stephen was persecuted for the gospel?

But the good news is there was no introduction as "Ergun Mi'Kael Giovanni Mehmet Janel", no reference at all to him living in Beirut or being trained in Jihad or learning about American culture through Turkish television. Not even a reference to the mysterious "Possum Kill, North Carolina" or his many debates all over the world. So he is doing better, progress is made. But he still makes claims about how "I lost my family, I lost my father, lost my home, lost my culture" in reference to his Christian conversion.

Best of all, at the end, he didn't refer to himself as a "towel head" or "sand nigger" as he customarily did on the evangelical circuit, but this time he closed with "Thank you for reaching a little punk like me. Thank you for loving the unlovable."



Watch Ergun Caner at Values Voter Summit 2010 in Faith & Lifestyle    View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brunson Defends Tithing Doctrine, Impugns Authors' Financial Motives

Note: the first version of this article assumed Brunson is referring to Frank Viola in his criticisms of an author he does not name in his sermon. However, after further reading it is entirely possible that Mac Brunson is referring to George Barna, and not Frank Viola, or perhaps to both who authored Pagan Christianity. I have made minor edits to this article reflecting this.
-------------

It is not very often that a pastor from his pulpit will impugn the motives of another Christian with whom they disagree over tertiary doctrinal matters, but that is exactly what Mac Brunson did last Sunday in his sermon defending the tithe doctrine.

While Brunson didn't name the author he spoke of, it was quite clear that it was either Christian author Frank Viola or George Barna. A stronger case could be made for the latter, but that is not the intent of this article to determine which. Brunson can clear this up by publicly stating who he was referring to if he wishes.

Mac Brunson said:
"This week I read an interesting statement by a very popular writer who has made multiplied millions of dollars selling his books to churches and Christians and pastors and denominations. I mean MILLIONS of dollars. He's written tons of books. And now having given the church advice over the last 20 years of what churches should be doing and why churches are not doing it and why churches aren't doing what they should be doing and he's given all this correction - he now no longer believes that tithing is biblical. Not only that he no longer believes that there should be a church staff, pastors or staff and he no longer believes there really should be church buildings. That's really convenient after you've made millions isn't it? Made millions off the church and then all of a sudden I'm just gonna decide 'Well you know what, I don't have to tithe all this'.

And this is what he said: 'Tithing is Jewish, but it is not Christian'. I thought Christianity was built on Judiasm. I got a Jewish Savior. Most every one of these guys that wrote this book is Jewish."
This is shameless on several levels.

First of all, why not give the author's name? Isn't that quite cowardly to not give the name of whom he speaks, so that people listening could go check out the author's book themselves and not take Brunson's word for it? From Brunson's description above he probably is referring to Christian authors Frank Viola and/or George Barna who have written the book "Pagan Christianity". If I am wrong, and Brunson was referring to someone else, I apologize in advance. But I don't think I'm wrong here.

Secondly, if he's going to call into question the author's arguments against tithing, why not accurately represent them? In the book Pagan Christianity, Viola says: "Tithing does appear in the Bible. So yes, it is biblical. But it is not Christian. The tithe belongs to ancient Israel. It was essentially their income tax." Viola and Barna go on to address the very arguments that Brunson used in defending the Christian tithe, including Abraham and Melchizedek in Genesis 14, and then the often abused verses in Malachi 3.

Thirdly, why call into questions the authors' motives as being financial? If the argument is that we should discount the author because he made "millions" off of the church and had a financial incentive to write against the tithe, what does that say about how we should view a mega church pastor who himself has made millions directly off of tithers, and has a financial interest in convincing people to give 10% of their income to his church? Let's face it - for Christian authors like Viola and Barna these days to come out and speak AGAINST the tithe will actually cost the author readership and speaking engagements in evangelical circles! Even their publisher, Tyndale, had to put a disclaimer at the front of the book. Read the foreward section of "Pagan Christianity" written by Viola, and the introduction written by Barna, and you will see they have a heart for Christ and His church and the gospel, and desire for Christians to fully understand where the current church practices come from, including tithing. Brunson's argument discrediting the authors is terribly weak, and it is a cheap shot, in my opinion. He should be ashamed - disagree with their viewpoints, but to question their motives from the pulpit is a disgrace.

Fourthly, the statement Brunson makes: "That's really convenient after you've made millions isn't it? Made millions off the church and then all of a sudden I'm just gonna decide 'Well you know what, I don't have to tithe all this'.", this is classic. Who really has made millions off the church? An author? Yes, Viola and Barna have written books and have sold them on the free market and yes Christians are their primary readers. Viola is a popular author and is a strong voice for "organic church" in our culture. But to say either of them have made millions "off the church" is ludicrous, especially coming from a pastor who has, well, made millions himself OFF OF THE CHURCH. And I mean MILLIONS. Pastors like Brunson earn six-figure salaries, earn money from selling books themselves, earn income from speaking engagements at other churches, and advertise Holy Land trips on their church websites and travel the world with their families. So who is really the one that is "making millions off of the church"? Is it Viola and Barna, or the mega church pastors who teach the tithe?

Fifthly, if Brunson is referring to Viola, I'm not sure where Brunson gets the idea that Viola's views on tithing are something he has come to AFTER he has made millions, which is argument is based on. I don't see evidence of that. Viola's book Pagan Christianity was first published in 2002. I sure hope that Brunson is right on that, or he is carelessly misrepresenting Viola's convictions on this matter. If he is referring to Barna, well, Barna has a right to come to a different view, and if he does it doesn't mean his motives are impure, and for sure it doesn't say anything about whether he is generous or not in his giving as outlined in the New Testament.

I would like to close by giving you some quotes from Viola's and Barna's book. After reading these, you'll see why mega church pastors who hang the 10% tithe around the necks of their people don't like Viola and Barna's views.

"If a believer wishes to tithe out of a personal decision or conviction, that is fine. Tithing becomes a problem when it is represented as God's command, binding upon every believer."
"Under the Old Testament system, tithing was good news to the poor. However, in our day, mandatory tithing equals oppression to the poor. Not a few poor Christians have been thrown into deeper poverty because they have felt obligated to give beyond their means."
"They have been told that if they do not tithe, they are robbing God and breaking his command. In such cases, the gospel is no longer 'good news to the poor'. Rather, it becomes a heavy burden."
"Conversely, contemporary tithing is good news to the rich. To a high earner, 10 percent is but a paltry sum. Tithing, therefore, appeases the consciences of the prosperous without impacting their lifestyles. Not a few wealthy Christians are deluded into thinking they are 'obeying God' because they throw 10 percent of their income into the offering plate."
And there is more. I highly recommend my readers checking out their book "Pagan Christianity" from your library. I doubt you'll find it anywhere in your CHURCH'S library however! :) You can buy it from Amazon.com here. You can visit Viola's website here.

You can see from the quotes above, why someone like Mac Brunson would certainly not like these authors' views, and would take opportunity to go after them from the pulpit. But go to Viola's website and read his biography, and make up your own mind. Read about George Barna - read his introduction to Pagan Christianity for yourself - don't just believe your preacher's characterizations of their motives. Read for yourself.

I am glad to say that Viola and Barna are not the only voices exposing the false tithing doctrine. As far as I know neither of them is nor ever was a Southern Baptist. But as we'll look at in the coming days, there is another voice who is daring to expose the false tithing doctrine, and he is one of our own. He is a Southern Baptist. He earned a Ph.D. at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and conducted his extensive tithing research under the tutelage of Dr. Andreas Kostenberger at SEBTS. This author's name is David Croteau, and we'll be discussing his recently released book on tithing as well.

I will return to look at more of Brunson's arguments for the tithe to give them a full hearing by my readers later. But if you want to listen to Brunson's sermon yourself in its entirety, go to this link:


It is the Sunday a.m worship service, dated September 12, 2010.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The "Cowardice" of Preachers: Lack of Openness and Transparency

As we saw from the last article here on the Watchdog, there is nothing more cowardly, in the view of many pastors, than for someone to blog or email anonymous criticism. Adjectives like "narcissitic zeros" and "pathetic" and "weak" are used by thin-skinned preachers to describe these "coward" critics.

OK, we got it. Anonymous criticism is the ultimate example of lay cowardice, say many preachers - even anonymous preachers like "Caleb" posting on my blog. In their world, that view apparently works for them. Everywhere else in society we do value feedback, even anonymous criticism - painful as it might be at times - from pupils and customers and employees. But not in the preacher's world. It is sin and must be rooted out.

But this begs the question: if anonymous criticism is the most prominent example of "cowardice" of lay folk - what then, pray tell, is the most prominent example of cowardice amongst mega church pastors and convention leaders in the SBC?

Easy. It is their lack of openness and transparency. Those pastors and leaders who can't be open and transparent with God's people are cowards. Both anonymous critics and non-transparent pastors and church leaders withold information for fear of the personal consequences resulting from its release. Perhaps these pastors and leaders don't trust God, and they don't trust God's people with important information, even to the detriment of their own church and ministries.

"SIGN YOUR NAME!!", screams Matt Chandler to the "pathetic anonymous cowards".

"BE TRANSPARENT!!", we lay people scream to the non-transparent pastors.

There is no shortage of examples of this "transparency cowardice", such as: closed-door agency meetings, sealing GCR deliberations for a decade, refusal to institute a Baptist clergy sexual abuser database and safe reporting and investigation system...and many others, some of which I've blogged about here.

But lack of financial transparency is one of the worst examples of this cowardice.

SBC pastors, especially those in the mega churches, are notorious for not telling people the details on how money is spent, especially when it comes to their compensation. Their total compensation is a closely guarded secret that only a few trusted men in their inner circle know. When pushed hard enough (by pesky reporters), they will only declare what they DON'T earn, or compare themselves with the average of other like pastors, or say things like "I don't make as much as you think I make"...but never, ever, ever, do they tell their church members their total compensation.

Often these same non-transparent pastors love to ask for money, and special offerings, and use the "tithing" doctrine to guilt folks into giving a minimum of 10% of their gross income, undesignated, to their church - else they're "robbing God" and stopping God's blessings, and incurring more frequent car repairs and doctor visits. The non-transparent pastors love to ask for dough, but not so much do they like to explain how it all is spent.

The sad thing is the lack of financial transparency at local church level and within our agencies ultimately hurts the institutions. It might help the leadership maintain a higher compensation package and lifestyle, but it ultimately hurts the institution's revenue sources. Transparency breeds accountability, accountabily leads to trust, and trust will allow more people to give knowing their dollars are used wisely.

Homer Lindsay, Sr. of First Baptist Jacksonville had a saying that many of the modern-day Baptist big-wigs ought to heed. Lindsay used to say:

"Trust the Lord, and tell the people."

Unfortunately today the saying seems to be: "Trust the Preacher, and don't tell the giving units".

I believe the cowardice of non-transparent preachers and church leaders is a much bigger problem than the cowardice of anonymous critics.

And our churches and the convention are paying the price.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why So Much Angst About Anonymous Critics?

I recently came across the audio excerpt below from Matt Chandler, where he absolutely blasts people who would dare send him anonymous, critical emails. He angrily calls them several choice names like "pathetic" and "narcissistic zeros". I came across this audio clip at Dr. Alvin Reid's blog site, as he included Chandler's clip with his blog post here entitled "Dealing with Critics".

You really have to listen to this. It gives I think a glimpse into just how much disdain there is for anonymous emailers and bloggers critical of the Southern Baptist power structure. It is my view, based on my experience as a formerly anonymous blogger, that Chandler's disdain for anonymous critics is shared by many of our Southern Baptist leaders. After all, Alvin Reid posts it for his readers (many of whom are our future pastors!), presumably as an example of how to view those who dare to criticize anonymously.

It is interesting that Chandler quotes an email criticizing his idea to incorporate "texting" into the church service to gather feedback from the congregation...he calls the email a "real hateful, little, spiteful email..." He read it, and I don't think it was "hateful" or "spiteful"...the person is wrong, but so what? Does that make them "pathetic" and a "zero" or a "narcissist"? (the "narcissist" charge coming from a mega church pastor is truly ironic!). It seems that maybe he was more upset at the person's views of his texting idea, than he is at the anonymity! Why would the anonymity of this person be so bothersome to him?

And it is interesting that he says his church doesn't have a system that hides things, that people can come to them with their questions and don't need to use an alias. Gee, when people hear their pastor blow up and call an email "hateful" and "spiteful", who really would want to go with honest questions or criticisms?

Why are pastors so sensitive to criticism in general, and why do they despise anonymous critics so much?

On the topic of anonymous communication, and why people sometimes choose to be anonymous - Chandler actually asks why would someone want to be anonymous - I offer the following article written in 2009 by an anonymous author on Wade Burleson's site. I believe the writer first posted it as a comment in one of Wade's blogs that appeared around March 2009 about the time of the subpoenas to find the identity of the FBC Jax Watchdog were becoming known. Wade then posted the article on his blog, and I have provided the entire anonymous article below it.

Anonymous Writing is Not Intrinsically Evil - March 5, 2009

"All of this talk about anonymity has got me thinking. The term “coward” is sure getting thrown around a lot, and that is unfortunate. I wonder if anyone here has ever read or heard about the Marprelate tracts? They were written by (anonymous) Puritans in 1588-89 criticizing the abuses of Anglican bishops and clergy. They knew the consequences if they were discovered, but they could not remain silent. In fact, two men (both ministers) died (1 executed, 1 died in prison) because they were linked to the printing of the tracts. The printer, Waldegrave, had his press confiscated and was financially ruined. It is debatable whether or not the authors were ever really discovered. When the Anglican Star Chamber issued an edict in 1586 declaring that the Anglican church had the power to license and/or forbid all printing in the country, these men knew that they must speak out, but they didn’t necessarily want to die for it. After all, when a “trouble-maker” is discovered and dealt with (i.e. ruined by those in power that he critiques), then the criticism is silenced and people remain in the dark about the issues.

Please note, there’s a stark difference between a willingness to die for the testimony of the gospel, which I would do, and a willingness to die criticizing an institution. Most of us would rather live and go on criticizing the institution, seeking to make reform than to die and have our voices for reform snuffed out. I love the SBC and want to see it reformed for instance, but I will not die for it. That’s a privilege reserved only for my sweet Savior and family.

Add to that list of contemptible cowards names like John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, men who published anonymously (OK…they used the pseudonym Publius) the Federalist Papers, called by many the most important political documents outside the Constitution and Declaration of Independence in our nation’s history. Cowards they were… discard their ideas.

Also add to the mix more contemptible cowards like Thomas Paine (Common Sense was anonymous upon publication) and the dozens and dozens of revolutionary war era and anti-slavery tracts published anonymously (see Gutenberg.org for a list). Also discredit the information of historical figures like the anonymous (until his death) “Deep-throat” who let the nation in on major political scandal and corruption in Washington D.C. Guess he was a coward too. Also there have been numerous corporate whistleblowers who have anonymously helped bring justice to out-of-control corrupt companies. Cowards each one...

Incidentally, just this morning in the latest issue of Discipleship Journal, I read a touching testimony about a man ministering to his son in the midst of a drunk-driving incident. The article was signed “Clive Wellington” with the note that this was a pseudonym for an unknown author, probably in order to protect the reputation of his son and his son’s ability to heal and move on with life. I should have been enraged by the article, questioned its truthfulness, and immediately ripped it out of DJ, calling upon them to either print the name or retract the story! Puhleeaze!

A few years ago, I attended a Voice of the Martyrs event where a former Pakistani Muslim who was now a Christian spoke against the evils of Islam. He had to travel, write, and speak under a made-up name to protect himself and his family. I guess without knowing his real name, I should be suspect about his claims. I cannot call his Imam in Pakistan and verify his claims, so he should be discredited…right?

Basically, the history of anonymity in writing is long and rich. Usually (almost always) anonymous writing is done by those NOT in power rightly criticizing those IN POWER who are in a position to shut-up and shut-down the anonymous source, thus putting an end to the public’s knowledge of the corruption. Those of you who are so quick to call others cowards can do so precisely because you support those in power or have nothing to lose (i.e. you’re not in ministry at a SB church or institution!). It’s OK to put your name on your criticism of Wade or Watchdog, because if some of the “higher-ups” look you up or run into you at the state or national convention (and believe me, they do!), they’ll thank you and pat your back! NOT take you to task or blacklist you like they have others!

I personally know a student at one of our seminaries working on his dissertation who was told (off the record) by more than one prof that he had better stay away from blogging or commenting or signing his name to anything critical that could be used later against him if he hoped to have a future at all in the SBC! At times, he has been scared of being kicked out of his program because of being critical of leaders, pastors, etc… during open discussions. Now he just sits quietly and withholds any criticism until he graduates.

Wade is in a unique situation…and I thank God for him. He has the strong support of his congregation and the knowledge that he will continue to be employed in the face of what he writes. They know and trust his character and integrity because of many years of ministry. He knows he will not lose his job by speaking out. He also knows (from experience) that he is not on anyone in the SBC’s list of “up and comers” for future leadership in SBC life. He walked those halls for a while and found out what happens when you refuse to “play the game.”

Many others are not in the same position, and thus, remain anonymous. In itself, that is no reason to discard what they write. Staffers at a mega-church led by a superstar are powerless. Speak out and lose your job, plain and simple. Lose your benefits, pack your bags, and plan to relocate…IF you can find anyone else to employ you after being fired by one of “the boys.” Likewise with seminary employees, agency employees, etc… SBC life is a very small, tight-knit community with lots of nepotism and inside-talk. Many of the mega-church leaders and inner-circle guys preach for each other regularly, defend one another publicly, speak at all the seminary chapels, serve on the same boards, room their kids together at the same schools, and on and on it goes. If you are critical and you make yourself known publicly, you will be shut out from future impact in the SBC.

Those of you who want to throw the term “coward” around, open your eyes to the reality of what’s happening. Look at what happened to Wade. Read the reports at fbcjaxwatchdog. Look at the facts. This man (whoever he is) was a loyal member of the church for MANY years under Lindsey/ Vines; why would he just “snap” when Dr. Brunson came on board? Could there be some substance to his accusations? You’ll never know because you don’t want to.

If you don’t want to believe what an anonymous author is saying, it wouldn’t matter if there was a name attached to it or not. Even if their identity was known, you still wouldn’t believe it. If there’s truth to what they are saying, then who cares if you know their name or not? Will those being criticized answer the criticisms with substance? I hope Dr. Brunson calls Wade back and clears the air, but I don’t foresee that happening.

It’s easy to sit on the winning side and take pot-shots at the whistle-blowers. It’s easy to call them cowards and discredit their work so readily. It’s much tougher to admit that these MIGHT just be honest Christian people telling the truth. It’s much tougher for many in the SBC today to admit that their heroes might be flawed."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Burn a Quran Day: What is More Dangerous, the Burning of the Qurans or the Alachua County Sheriff Trying to Stop It?

At left is a picture of a solid green sign in Gainesville, Florida.

That is, or WAS, a sign erected lawfully by Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach ministry, with the agreement of the property owner. Two plain-clothes Alachua County sheriff's deputies painted over Mr. Jones sign using green paint.

The sign advertised the "Burn the Quran Day" to be held at Jones' church.

The following paragraphs about that green sign from the Gainesville Sun should send chills down the spine of anyone concerned about First Amendment free speech issues in this country:

"A Dove World Outreach Center sign on Southwest 13th Street announcing its International Burn a Quoran Day' was painted over Wednesday evening by Alachua County sheriff's deputies.

The sign was put up on a billboard on property adjacent to the Hoda Center Academy, a mosque and Islamic center, under an agreement between the property owner and church officials.

On Thursday morning, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard said the decision to paint over the sign came after a day of what he described as conversations between Heine and local officials. After receiving written permission from Heine, two deputies in plainclothes were sent to the sign with green paint that the Sheriff's Office had on hand, Maynard said, and at about 8 p.m. painted over the sign."

Wow. The Alachua County Sheriff's department went and put pressure on the land owner to allow them to send two plainclothes officers to paint over the sign.

Like it or not, this man and his church members have a First Amendment right to burn the Qurans on his church property. I agree with Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City - he stated that while he found the burning of the Quran distasteful, he affirmed that Terry Jones has a right to his free speech and we should all seek to protect it.

Burning of books or other materials that one find's offensive, or that they don't like: that is a form of protected "speech", and it is well grounded in our Constitution rights as Americans.

And just because YOU, or I, or Obama, or Muslims here in America or in the Middle East don't like it: TOUGH POOP as my grandpappy used to say, and he didn't say "poop".

Have we Americans lost sight of the fact that the First Amendment free speech rights aren't needed to protect popular speech that the majority of Americans agrees with? The First Amendment was established by our founding fathers to protect speech that is offensive and unpopular! If this man is shut down by our government for his unpopular speech, who will be next? Maybe you, Christian pastor?

Jones can burn Qurans. He can burn Bibles. He can burn the Book of Mormon. He can even burn copies of our Constitution.

It doesn't matter if Obama doesn't like it. It doesn't matter if marching Muslims in Afganistan are burning effagies of the pastor. It doesn't matter if it is inconvenient to the sheriff of Alachua County. We live in America, and Jones has a right to free speech, and the government does not have the right to interfere with his speech based on its content.

Just a guess here: but I think this means the sheriff's office does not have a right to be painting over privately-owned signs with green paint that they find offensive.

And they aren't just painting over his signs. Jones also had his Internet Service Provider shut down his church's web site. Was the government involved in applying pressure to the ISP to get this accomplished? The Gainesville Sun is now reporting that the Sheriff of Alachua County is going to charge the pastor of Dove outreach church "tens of thousands" of dollars for security expenses due to his planned Quran burning. Burning a Quran requires NO increased security, unless it is the fire marshall or firemen.

Please hear me: The only thing that requires security would be policing those that disagree with the pastor. So why not issue a statement: "Anyone that tries to harm this man for exercising his free speech, you will be charged for the cost of our police protection."

Is not that the job of our government? Weren't the Sheriff of Alachua County and his deputies sworn to protect Mr. Jones' rights as an American citizen and of their county? Why is the Sheriff not telling people who might attempt to stop or harm Mr. Jones that the Sheriff will do everything in its power to protect his free speech?

So Christians everywhere should be just as outraged at the government response to the burning, as they are to the act of burning the Qurans. Utlimately this story will not be about Qurans, but about Pastor Jones' right to free speech.

You see Christian, if you don't stand up for this man's right to burn the Quran, YOU and your church might be next.

What, you want to have a Passion Play and show Jesus being beaten and hung on a cross? That is offensive. You will be charged for security AND your website shut down and your billboards painted over. That message might harm our troops around the world and is offensive to Jews and Muslims.

Have a blog that dares to blog about a pastor and his church and express your views about finances and call for a financial boycott? You might have a sheriff's deputy deeply involved in the church's ministry investigate your blog and hand your name to the church for them to kick you and your wife out...and then have the city defend their actions by saying the content of your blog constituted a "threat".

And you homosexuals want to have a gay pride parade? Nope, that is offensive to the majority of the people around the world so we will charge you for increased security and paint over your banners and billboards!

While I don't want this man to burn Qurans, and I find it to be a stupid and anti-Christian idea - the sad thing is that if the Sheriff's office succeds in intimidating him into silence, or if they physically stop him from exercising his free speech, we all will have lost a measure of our First Amendment rights. And if this happens, I hope the pastor fights back.

And Christian pastor, get ready, because you and your "offensive gospel" may be next.

Perry Noble: "Spiritual Whores" and "Purging the Rolls"

"I wrote something to the church: for Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them...I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words, and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church." (3 John 9-10)
----------------------
The video below is a bit disturbing, it is of Perry Noble, Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church, calling his "non-committed" church members "spiritual hoes" ("hoe" of course slang for "whore"), and then announcing at the very end of the service that those church members who don't "get involved" in church ministry by December 2010 are "liars" and will be purged from the rolls of the church.

[Can you hear the questions in the car on the way home: "Mommy, what is a 'hoe'? Maybe you are a 'hoe', Mommy! Are we 'hoes' like the pastor said?"]

And best of all, Noble declared that God told him that morning to announce that the rolls of the church needed to be purged. Yikes. I would be nervous, very nervous, when the pastor announces that God told him to start purging the church rolls. I might next be looking for small cups of flavored Kool-Aid, and announcements for satellite churches in Guyana. When a guy thinks he has the authority to make these pronouncements on a whim because God told him that morning, without discussing it with church lay leaders, your cult radar should go off.

You might remember Perry Noble from a post I made earlier this year on tithing, where he gets on his people because church leaders "looked" at the giving records of the members and found 90% of the congregation is "robbing God" by not forking over at least 10% of their income to his church.

Why bother showing this video? Well, Perry Noble is a rock star amongst what are called the "emergent" churches - those non-traditional, what we might call "seeker friendly" or "purpose driven" churches. Noble founded NewSpring 10 years ago, and it has experienced explosive growth, thousands of members on multiple campuses in South Carolina. Noble has preached at Rick Warren's church. Noble holds conferences where pastors come to learn how his church has experienced such rapid growth. Noble is a harsh, harsh critic of the traditional evangelical church, criticizing everything from Sunday School to deacon boards to old fashioned pastor's wive's hairdos.

There are some things I like about Perry Noble and NewSpring - unlike some of his harshest critics I do believe he preaches the gospel. Noble says things that I think other mega church pastors think, but wouldn't dare speak publicly. But Perry at times borders on the cultic and spiritually abusive. This is an example of such behavior - and Perry and his church are the "gold standard" amongst emergent churches so this sort of behavior is troublesome.

About the "purging the rolls" comment: purging of rolls might be a good idea for many Baptist churches who have "members" that haven't been seen or heard from in years. But Perry is doing here what I have criticized other bullying mega church pastors of doing: trying to take the place of the Holy Spirit by bullying and intimidating people into doing or giving as the pastor wants them to. Here Perry says effectively serve God according to how NewSpring and Perry Noble define "service", else they will effectively kick you out of the church. As I said before, he wants his people to know HE HIMSELF made this decision, AFTER GOD TOLD HIM. Scary stuff.

Perry does say that purged members can still attend (gee, thanks Perry - allowing us to attend your church, how charitable) - so I suppose they won't be taking tresspass papers out on members for being bad Christians, or for "church misconduct".

And this past Sunday Noble told his congregation that when he said "purged" he meant "placed on inactive status".

That makes sense - after all, how could you send tithing envelopes to people who are "purged" from your membership roll? :)

If you want to watch the entire service, go here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Caner Returns to Pulpit: Preaches at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Adversity and Integrity

Ergun Caner returned to the pulpit Sunday September 5th, preaching a sermon, "Four Lessons for Godly Parenting" at Thomas Road Baptist Church. He preached about the four men in the book of 3 John, and four lessons to teach our kids: what is true prosperity, how to handle adversity, how to maintain our integrity, and that we must teach with authenticity.

He delivered a sermon that was typical Caner: expository, filled with humor and self-deprecating stories about himself and his family. A good sermon, except that I can't take some of his admonitions seriously given the revelations over the past 6 months of how he has lied to and misled so many audiences of his background. He preached about the importance of maintaining one's integrity and character, and to not be preoccupied with notoriety - which is strange coming from him given how one can only assume he was seeking notoriety after 9/11 when he transformed himself from E. Michael Caner to "Ergun Mi'khael Mehmet Giovanni Janel" vaulting him to instant notoriety in the SBC. Nothing "authentic" about that.

The crowd seemed to fully embrace Caner. When he took the platform he was greeted with a standing ovation, and prolonged "hoots and hollers" from what sounded like mostly younger worshippers. When it was over, he received another standing ovation.

He is a talented speaker, there is no question, and this sermon shows he does not intend on missing one step or backing down one bit from what he feels he is called by God to do. While he didn't directly address his tribulations this summer resulting in him losing his job as president of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary - his remarks made it clear to me that he will not back down from the mantra that he was unfairly attacked and that HE took the high road by not responding to his critics. He will be preaching this weekend at Jerry Vines' Bible Conference, so this was a good warm-up for 'ole Ergun.

One of the most notable quotes from the sermon, about teaching your kids through adversity:
"What you teach them when you are attacked is far greater than what you teach them when you are applauded. You will teach them by how you respond, and you will teach them by how you recover....Don't you ever, even when justified, return fire. Never take the bait, never escalate. Let them say all manner of things about you. Why? Because that's what Jesus said"
and
"At the end of the day I gotta serve God and serve my family. If I do those two things I can lay my head on a pillow even if the pillow is a stone."
At the end of his sermon, he thanked the Thomas Road congregation: "Thank you for being my family".

If you want to watch this sermon, visit the Thomas Road Baptist Church website here. Note: the sermon title on the website is "God the Bounty Hunter" - a reference to a story of how he likes to watch "Dog the Bounty Hunter", and he compared "Dog" and his bounty hunting to how God pursues sinners.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Robert Jeffress Trades Jabs with Newspaper Columnist Over Pedophilia in Islam

In a scene reminiscent of Jerry Vines standing in the pulpit at First Baptist Jacksonville in 2002 defending his statement of Mohammad being a "demon-possessed pedophile", Robert Jeffress stood in front of his congregation today to defend his statement that Islamic men "all over the world" are "having sex with 4-year old girls".

Here's what happened:

About a week ago, Jeffress held an "Ask the Pastor" event at his church, First Baptist Dallas, and gave a detailed explanation about the dangers of Islam in response to a question about Christian atrocities and Islamic violence, during which he stated the following:

"And here is the deep, dark, dirty secret of Islam: It is a religion that promotes pedophilia – sex with children. This so-called prophet Muhammad raped a 9-year-old girl – had sex with her," he said.

"Around the world today, you have Muslim men having sex with 4-year-old girls, taking them as their brides, because they believe the prophet Muhammad did."
Jeffress also spoke of the "35 sword verses" in the Koran that call for killing infidels, calling it an "oppressive religion", and pulled no punches in his descriptions of how terrible the "violent religion" is, and how the mosque at ground zero is a terrible idea because Islam is a religion that incites violence around the world.

Well, no surprise, a columnist at the Dallas Morning News didn't like Jeffress' remarks, calling him "uninformed", and "un-Christian". You can read the columnist's article here. His name is Steve Blow, pictured at left. No, I'm not kidding, that is his name.

Well, Jeffress decided to provide a response to Blow from the pulpit this morning before the First Baptist Dallas service started. He provided a solid defense for his statements. And he didn't read a prepared statement, he spoke from the heart, with conviction, and provided a reference for his statement about Islam and children brides.

However, his original statement said that "all over the world", Islamic men are "having sex with 4-year girls." He made that claim in his Q&A, and it is not accurate. In his response to Blow, he said that he didn't mean to imply that this was happening in the United States, but in other countries like Yemen and he cited a CBS News report about the atrocity of children brides in Yemen.

So I think Jeffress defended himself well. He overstated himself in the Q&A by implying that most Muslim men everywhere are having sex with 4-years olds and I think he should have stated so. But he clarified his remarks and gave a citation of a credible source to make his point. And I commend Jeffress for handling this controversy in the press head-on, in a direct, factual way. You can disagree with him, but he stood in his pulpit and explained himself and addressed Steve Blow's column - he didn't beat around the bush, or make himself to be a victim of the press. Some preachers think they're above directly addressing a controversy in the press, that they are above the fray. Not Jeffress, he dove right in and defended his views in front of his congregation.

Now, if we could just find someone in the Southern Baptist Convention who would be as passionate as Jeffress is on the issue of children brides in Yemen, who would get serious and passionate about tracking and informing Southern Baptists about pedophile preachers and ministers and lay people IN OUR OWN RELIGION, we would be making some progress, don't you think?

Here are the two videos of Jeffress - the first one is the Q&A statements about Islam, the 2nd is his response to Blow's column.



Friday, September 3, 2010

Notice Jacksonville: We are a Target for the Mormon's Latest Ad Campaign

Jeff Brumley of the Florida Times Union wrote an article this week about the latest Mormon TV and radio ad campaign targeting nine U.S. cities, including Jacksonville, Florida. We have been innundated with TV and radio ads where a person explains their "normal" life, and ends with the statement: "I'm Fred Smith, and I'm a Mormon".

These ads are paid for by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, or "Mormons") and are an attempt to show the "normalcy" of American Mormons, but of course the ads don't at all address the non-Christian views that one must embrace to be a Mormon.

But I encourage anyone in Jacksonville, Florida or other 8 markets being targeted with these ads (click here to view the "testimonies" from which the ads are derived) who does not understand this religion - to watch the 2007 PBS special on Mormonism. It is a 4-hour program on line that covers the entire history of Mormonism from its origin in the early 1800's in New York with its founder Joseph Smith to the modern-day centralized church and it's practices and culture. It is a documentary that includes many interviews with historians inside and outside of the religion, and of Mormons themselves. One of the best PBS documentaries I've seen. A must see if you want to have a complete picture of the Mormon faith.

One of the interesting aspects of the PBS documentary is to see some of the doctrinal and cultural similarities - and the same demand of historical and doctrinal conformity - practiced by both Mormons and modern-day conservaitve Southern Baptists, which I'll comment on soon.

But please, don't let the Mormon's slick marketing campaign fool you. Watch this program and you will see a very fair, yet very disturbing picture of a strange religion.

To watch this entire 4-hour program, which is broken into 2-hour parts, visit this site:

The Mormons - A PBS Documentary

Below is a snipet from the documentary that deals with how the Mormons discipline dissenters in their ranks, and the disciplinary process used by those who dare question or embarrass their spiritual leaders. The letter of sins, the call to a disciplinary committee with no representation, and total banishment from the church for their divisiveness....hmmm....


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spending (and Raising) God's Money - A Return to the Topic of Tithing, Spending, and Giving

We've spent a good deal of time here on this blog discussing the modern-day topic of tithing.

As you might recall, I opened the discussion last winter in "Takin' It Up Wit Da Book" , and then reviewing what John McArthur's views are on the doctrine of "storehouse tithing", and a multitude of articles in December 09 and January 10 on tithing. One of my favorite articles was the Steve Gaines claim of non-tithing members driving stolen cars and living in stolen homes, and declaring tithing to require "undesignated" gifts. A real classic.

I am going to return to the topic of tithing, giving, spending, raising money at our churches during the month of September.

During the month I will be using information in Mary Kinney Branson's book "Spending God's Money" (link to book at Amazon.com here) - a book written in 2006 describing her experience working for the head of the North American Mission Board Bob Reccord (dubbed "Hollywood Bob") and the wasteful spending practices at the NAMB. If you have not read this book and you give money to a Southern Baptist Convention church, I highly recommend it - a real eye-opener as to how donated funds were spent at NAMB during those years. Branson also gives practical advice to Christians when it comes to giving.

In the forward of Branson's book, the writer dubs a quote from Branson's book as "Branson's Law". It is:

"It all boils down to a simple formula: The extent of misuse is directly proportionate to the distance between the giver and the spender."

The less transparency, the more concealment there is on details of how money is spent, the more apt there is to be waste and abuse. Our government and publicly owned corporations have realized this for decades, but the church crowd is slow to get on board. We've even seen a recent example of local government spending gone amuck with little oversight and clever accounting practices.

So let's return to the topic of tithing and accountability and spending in our churches today.

Should make for an interesting September.