"...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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Maryland Man Busted for Taking Speaking Gigs Based on His Fake Past

Why does Liberty University, and so many SBC pastors, still tolerate an unrepentant Ergun Caner in their classrooms and pulpits? Why is First Baptist Church Jacksonville flying Caner in to speak at their Pastor's Conference to high school students and seminary students? Why is Caner still getting speaking gigs at SBC churches?

The good news is that while SBC pastors and SBC leaders like Mac Brunson may tolerate and still give speaking gigs to someone who has repeatedly lied to Christians for a decade about his past and never given a full explanation or offered a public apology, in the real, everyday world this sort of thing is NOT tolerated.

A very interesting story broke yesterday about a Maryland man who was arrested for accepting money for lectures he gave based on his past as a special forces agent, a claim that turned out to be false.

William Hillar - pictured above - marketed himself for years as a retired special forces agent, and was able to secure speaking gigs to military groups, law enforcement agencies and schools. Apparently he was incredibly convincing, and very entertaining, and had people fooled for about 10 years.

If you read the Fox News account here, and a watch a TBD News video on this story, you'll learn the following:

- as reported by TBD, "...for years this man [Hillar] invented a persona so that he could market himself as a speaker, teacher, and trainer."

- Hillar was willing to even speak lies involving his family to make his story seem more convincing. Hillar claimed that the movie "Taken" was patterned after his life, as his daughter had been kidnapped and killed. Nope, she is alive and he never was a special forces agent.

- One of his neighbors summed up Hillar very well: "To make up a whole life's story in order to draw attention to himself, I think is very sad."

- Hillar to this day is unrepentant. According to the TBD reporter, "He seems unrepentant. In court this afternoon...he said he plans to continue working as a lecturer, teacher and trainer on these exact same subjects."

- Hillar even fooled the government, and got himself a speaking gig with the FBI at one point.

- Hillar was knowledgeable and entertaining, and had his audiences fooled by being a captivating and motivating speaker. One of Hillar's victims, Mark Stone of the Rural Justice Training Center in Wyoming said that Hillar kept a class of 60 students riveted by telling stories from his special forces days. "His stories were so detailed,” said Stone. “Probably things he read in a book....he was great...He knew a lot of information and he was motivational."

The similarities of Hillar's story to Caner's are so obvious to anyone who has closely followed Caner. He transformed himself from "E. Michael Caner" to "Ergun Mehmet Giovani Caner" and gained popularity in the SBC preaching circuit shortly after 9/11 by telling us members at FBC Jax that he was "raised in Europe", and that he was "trained to do that which was done on 11 September" and that he was in "Islamic Youth Jihad". He secured a speaking gig to our armed forces as someone who understands Islamic culture based on being raised in Turkey. He has told audiences that his dad had three wives, when there is no evidence whatsoever that this is true. He over and over told audiences of debates that he had with Muslims, yet there was no record of these debates. He told stories to the Ohio Free Will Baptists at a men's retreat of his days growing up in Turkey and watching American television to learn of our culture, when records show he lived in the states since he was about 3 years old. Caner is on tape speaking jibberish multiple times to fool his audiences into thinking he speaks a foreign language. Need I go on?

And please don't tell me that Caner repented publicly. He has not. At one of his first speaking gigs AFTER he was let go as president of Liberty's seminary, he told a reporter that it would take a lot more than edited videos to take him down, called his critic bloggers who helped expose his lies "frustrated people in their basement" and he mischaracterized his lies as just getting a few names and dates wrong. That is not repentence. That is denial, and ad hominem attacks on those who speak the truth about him.

Lying about one's past is not in and of itself illegal. But when you accept money to speak to people or give lectures based on a falsified past, that is a different story. Let me remind you of this advertisement that was on Phil Waldrep's Living With Joy website until a few days after I wrote an article about it, when it magically disappeared:
Problem is, Caner was not a terrorist. Never trained as a terrorist. Certainly never a "hardened terrorist". He never "came to America to be a terrorist". Yet this website was attempting to sell a CD for $35 to hear an audio tape of a "hardened terrorist".

Does this news story about Hillar help you to perhaps understand why Caner does not publicly repent about his decade of deceit?

I want to add some information here about this story that is not in the main press accounts. If you read this piece at the TBD website, the point is made that what helped take Hillar down were retired men who WERE in the Special Forces, who took great offense of a man making money off of lies claiming to be one of the them! They wrote letters and posted information on the Internet about Hillar, until eventually an investigation was done.

This makes me think of James White. James White was the most vocal minister calling for Caner to repent during 2010. White was absolutely blasted in the most un-Christian fashion by some Southern Baptists in their desperate attempt to defend Caner. They attacked White for his Calvinist views, they even contacted one of his employers at a seminary to get him fired, claimed he was "obsessed" with Caner. They ridiculed him and tried to discredit him. It was unbelievable to see this happen to James White at the hands of other Christian ministers as White was being true to his Christian convictions and seeking the repentance of a Christian brother.

Why did White get so involved in the Caner fiasco and put so much at risk in publicly calling for a fellow minister to repent of his lies? If you remember, White explained that he was compelled to get involved, because Caner was falsely claiming to be doing what James White DOES do: and that is debate people about the Christian faith and Islam. Caner claimed to have hundreds of debates all over the world, but there is not a record of any of them. White was attempting to protect the integrity of his profession, from someone who was falsely claiming to be a Christian-Muslim debater.

These men retired from Special Forces don't take kindly to imposters. Said Jeff Hinton, a retired Master Seargent: "These guys are using our reputation to scam innocent people. It really makes us angry."

Most professions root out those who use fake credentials and lie about their past to advance professionally and financially, and they and expel them from their midst. Most professions will call out someone who is gaining in their field from lies - not so apparently in the SBC. Instead in this case the SBC turned on the one who was blowing the whistle and tried to harm him.

But it really doesn't have to be that way in Christian circles. There is a way of restoration, and it is called confession and repentance. Caner and Brunson know that public sin by a minister requires public confession and repentance. Brunson has practiced this in his church with his ministers, and Caner and Brunson wrote about "private sin, private confession, public sin, public confession" in their 2005 book "Why Churches Die" (p. 208).

But sadly, Ergun and the pastors of the Southern Baptist Convention who continue to promote Caner believe that the embarrassment of a public confession and repentance by one of their rock star preachers is too high a price to pay in order for them to practice what they preach. And you know what? Maybe this story of William Hillar helps to explain just how high the price can be.

Welcome back to Jacksonville, Ergun.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Guide to Mega Church Easter Entertainment

Who is that at the left? That is Marduke. Marduke the Moon God. Just thought you might be interested from the previous post on tithing. Markduke might have a banner hanging in the Pastor's Conference, I'm not sure.

Enough of the serious talk on tithing.

But let me summarize our tithing discussion:

It ain't in da book.

I've looked. And so has John MacArthur.

Instead, give as you purpose in your heart, not under compulsion. Give 1%, 5%, 10% or 20%. Give it to your church, or spread it around. The church is not an Old Testament storehouse, and the pastors are not Levitial priests. You are the temple, the "church" is not your local church and its buildings and employees, it is the body of Christian believers everywhere. You are free in Christ. It is wonderful to be free in Christ, and know that you do NOT have to meet a 10% demand as a requirement to receive blessings from God.

But do give as the Lord leads you, do it cheerfully, sacrificially, and don't let mega church pastors guilt you into a percentage. Don't let them twist scripture to convince you the Bible says something that is not there. Take care of your family first. Don't cut your family and their needs short, don't go into debt, and don't sacrifice your financial future to meet the demands of a bully preacher who says you are disobedient if you don't give him 10%.

If preachers would just preach the truth that I've just shared with you, I predict their giving would INCREASE. Stop the bellyaching and the scriptural gymnastics, pastors, and people might dig deeper.

And by all means: definitley discount any arguments made to support a 10% storehouse tithe that include a mention of ancient tithing to "Marduke the Moon God."

And speaking of Marduke the Moon God, time for a new, light-hearted post in advance of the Pastor's Conference.

Below is the audio of a satirical skit of a ficticious seeker-friendly podcaster, "Stanley Andy" who summarizes the entertainment line-up at this year's mega church Easter services. My favorite part is when Stanley talks about the plans at Perry Noble's church. Too funny!

Chris Rosebrough does some very good satire on his radio show, and this is an example of that.

Enjoy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ancient Pagans Tithed to Their False Gods, So How Dare Christians NOT Tithe to Their God, Says Mac Brunson

In the three years plus we've discussed tithing on this blog, we've looked at a number of ridiculous, sometimes even abusive arguments used by mega church pastors to convince their congregations that they must fork over 10% of their gross income to their pastor's church to stay in good graces with God.

But Mac Brunson recently has put forth one of the wackiest, over-the-top arguments I've ever heard on tithing: that because ancient pagans supposedly "tithed" to their phoney-baloney gods, that we as Christians today should be quite happy to practice the same ritual.

Yes, according to Mac because the Mesopotamians apparently tithed to "Marduke the Moon God" 7000 years ago, and becauses hieroglypics depict Ramses tithing to Ra (did he write a check or put cash in the offering plate?) Christians should do nothing less than divide our weekly gross income by 10, and fork that over to the pastor's church. This argument really should be a Saturday Night Live skit making fun of mega church pastors - not seriously put forth from the pulpit of a Baptist church.

Below you can see and hear it yourself, courtesy of Kevin Oliver, a Christian discernment video blogger who was appalled when he heard Mac Brunson use the pagan practice of tithing to rip into Christians who dare to debate the issue of tithing. Watch Kevin's video and commentary:


Even Chris Rosebrough of the Pirate Christian Network got word of this Brunson sermon, and did a segment on his radio show recently entitled "The Worst Reason Ever Given by a Pastor as to Why You Should Tithe" where he spent 15 minutes analyzing the above clip and pointing out the logical and scriptural fallacies of Brunson's argument (click here if you want to hear Rosebrough's analysis, fast forwarding to the 22:00 minute mark).

As you see in the video, Brunson gets all worked up explaining how ancient civilizations tithed to their "gods", including the "Mesopotameians tithing to Marduke the Moon God." and thus it seems Brunson believes that God has placed "tithing" as a basic truth in the heart of man.

Several things about this argument pointing to tithing practices of pagan religions:

- David Croteau in his book "You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe: A Deconstruction of Tithing and a Reconstruction of Post-Tithe Giving", references author Henry Landsdell's work that discusses how ancient cultures exhibited some form of giving increases to their gods. But Croteau points out: "...how they gave differed in the amount, the voluntary nature, and the timing. There certainly was not a uniform 10% of increase prescribed across the board." Crouteau goes on to point out that in Arabia tithes were paid on frankincense, but if the ground had been watered by Baal (as in rain) a double tithe was due. So it certainly is quite a stretch to compare these pagan tithes to even Old Testament tithing, and just completely absurd to compare it to believers under the new covenant who are to give joyfully, out of their blessings, and without compulsion.

- I would take exception to Brunson's opening statement in his diatribe: "Its amazing how the human heart knows that when you come before God, I'm supposed to bring something to him." Absurd. God planted in the human heart the knowledge that we are to bring something to God when we come before him? Where does he come up with this? I thought that under the new convenant we have finally understood that God doesn't want us to bring something to him, because we have nothing he wants. He had to redeem us, we couldn't redeem ourselves. Isn't the essence of false religion (i.e. paganism!) man's attempt to reach God by "bringing something to him"? And we're now to believe that God put that in the human heart, and thus Christians are supposed to bring God the tithe because of this? Lord, I hope they are not teaching this in seminaries!

So the next time you are considering what to give to the Lord, stop and think of what our pagan brethren did.

They tithed to Marduke and Asar and Ra, and so should you! You didn't know it? You know it now.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

FBC Jax Resigns from Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability

According to the membership website of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, First Baptist Church of Jacksonville has resigned this week from the ECFA, effective 1/18/11.

Too bad, as FBC Jax was one of the few Baptist churches who was an ECFA member. The Watchdog recommended that FBC Jax become an ECFA member way back in September 2007, and they did join the ECFA sometime in 2008.

No reason is given by the ECFA for the FBC Jax resignation - it could be FBC Jax is cutting back and didn't want to pay the $4500 annual fee a church their size would is required to pay, or perhaps the financial statements for last year were not good and they didn't want to submit them for posting on the ECFA website.

But no doubt the timing of the FBC Jax resignation is not good. It was just a few weeks ago that Senator Grassley charged the ECFA to spearhead the effort to work for financial reform in the religious community. Grassley's staff prepared a 60 page memo summarizing the problems of excessive compensation, lavish lifestyles of pastors who fly in private jets, live in million dollar homes, and use the ministries to provide employment for family members.

While it is commendable that FBC Jax was an ECFA member when the vast majority of churches were not - it doesn't look good when they do resign after a tough financial year, just two weeks after a U.S. Senator is looking to the ECFA to spearhead self-reform in the area of financial transparency and accountability. One of ECFA's largest church members is now "gawn" - "GAWN". :). So much for hoping the Southern Baptists will be part of the ECFA solution.

And on an unrelated note: it was confirmed last night that the FBC Jax high school pastor of 3 years, Rev. Chris Eppling, is leaving FBC Jax. We were at FBC Jax for only a short time after Chris was hired, but everything we have heard is that he is a wonderful youth pastor and we wish him well in his next area of service.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Caner's Comeback Almost Complete - Will Speak to Students at FBC Jax Pastor's Conference

In only seven months since Ergun Caner was removed from his duties as dean of the Liberty Theological Seminary, his rise back to SBC prominence is almost complete - with a little bit of help from his friend Mac Brunson and the high schoolers of FBC Jacksonville.

It was announced to FBC Jax high schoolers and their parents this past Wednesday night that Ergun Caner will be speaking to the high school students at the Pastor's Conference on Saturday night, January 29th. I assume this is why Ergun Caner's picture and bio appear at the Pastor's Conference website although he doesn't appear any where in the speaking schedule: he must be the speaker at the 7:00 pm "Student Conference" on the conference agenda, for which there is no specific speaker listed. If he is the speaker there, why not put his name on the agenda? Why is the cat let out of the bag only a few weeks prior to the conference?

Pretty amazing that in just 7 months since his removal as President of the Liberty Theological Seminary over his 9 years of telling fibs in pulpits all over America - exaggerations of his testimony including his growing up in Turkey, learning of American culture through watching American TV shows while living in Turkey, how he was trained in Jihad - all false - that Ergun Caner is now given a platform to speak to high schoolers and presumably seminary students at the 2011 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference. I'm sure Caner will be in rare form - the last time he preached at FBC Jax in 2009 he had the faithful yucking it up over stereotypes of black worshippers ("shoes that match their suits that match their cars" and "satellite dish hats with curtain rods down the front") - so I'm sure Caner won't disappoint this time either.

I guess what makes this even worse is that FBC Jax really is where this whole ugly saga started when "Butch Caner" emerged from SBC obscurity after 9/11 as "Ergun Mehmet Giovanni Janel" back on November 21, 2001. It was on that day when Caner preached in the FBC Jax pulpit with Jerry Vines looking on, telling us he was raised in Europe, trained in "Islamic Youth Jihad", had "been trained to do that which was done on 11 September", and didn't know English well as a teenager. But it was all an exaggeration, as he moved to the states at the age of 3 and was raised in Ohio. His 11/21/01 sermon may very well have been a carefully orchestrated attempt to use our church to catapult him to stardom as an Islamic expert after 9/11.

So now he comes back to FBC Jax again, at the 2011 Pastor's Conference.

Make no mistake: with all the SBC bigwigs in town for the conference like Johnny Hunt, Jerry Vines, David Platt and Ed Stetzer - seminary presidents Al Mohler and Danny Akin and Chuck Kelly and Paige Patterson - along with thousands of conservative SBC pastors in town for the conference, this most certainly should be seen as the SBC putting it's stamp of approval back on Ergun Caner. He is back, and he is in the good graces of the SBC pastors and the leadership. The message is clear: pastors, it is now safe to invite him back into your churches to speak.

This rapid return of Caner to SBC prominence perhaps says just as much about the state of evangelical Christianity as did our eagerness to lap up his stories for nine years and roll in the aisles at his racial and gender stereotype jokes. The lesson is if you can tell a good yarn, make people laugh, have superior oratory skills and can draw a crowd and generate revenue - you will be in high demand. It is about the dollar, and who are your friends. Caner is a co-author with Brunson, and Vines is the one who helped him to fame in 2001 when he brought him to FBC Jax.

Neither can afford to let Caner fail.

Friday, January 14, 2011

FBC Jax Completes $3.5 Million Auditorium Renovation - Debt Free

This past Sunday First Baptist Jacksonville celebrated the completion of their $3.5 million auditorium renovations, which according to John Blount was "fully funded to completion, we've accomplished the goal".

The renovations included the addition of senior adult Sunday School space on the lower floor on the two sides, new pews, new carpet, new wall coverings, larger foyer to accomodate space for a visitor reception area, and a redesigned worship platform - and new choir robes.

In the service John Blount recognized the design architects and contractors and committes that worked on the project. Mac Brunson said some nice words about what a value John Blount is to the church and how he was so instrumental in completion of the project. John gave a mini-sermon to put into historical and spiritual perspective why the renovations took place.

John's remarks included the following:
"This is our home. This is our place, our space, where we come to meet God. Where we come to hear His word. And from where we go to proclaim His word to the ends of the earth. It is a special, sacred place. It would be very easy to say 'well, we just undertook these renovations and spent three and a half million dollars just for the sake of aesthetic beauty.' In one sense that's true we did do this because of beauty but in another sense and a far deeper sense, the reason we have done what we've done here is because this is such a special and important place.

What we do in this place says a lot about what we believe about the gospel. We have a high value of the gospel in this place, we have a high regard for God's word - it is vital, it is important. When people come in here they should not be distracted by buildings and things, they should find a place that seems to match what God says in His word - we have a high value of the gospel.

Jesus Christ is the most beautiful thing in all the world. And this is our attempt to say 'We think Jesus is beautiful'. He should be shared in a beautiful place, and in a beautiful way. "
And then:
So that's why we have done what we've done: because our God is great, because our Savior is beautiful, because the gospel is powerful, it should go out from a place like this.
I agree, the place looks beautiful, and yes, Jesus is beautiful and the gospel powerful. But why can't we just say renovations are nice, we like nice things and want our space to look nice? I think it would be truer to say that BECAUSE our God is great, our Savior beautiful and the gospel powerful, it does NOT need to go out from a newly renovated auditorium.

But you have to hand it to Mac. He laid out a plan early in 2007 less than a year into his ministry at FBC Jax that included three major accomplishments to get FBC Jax ready for ministry in the future: a new school, a satellite campus, and auditorium renovations, all major undertakings any time but especially during a repressed economy. He has accomplished all three, and apparently debt free.

Kudos to Mac and John Blount and the faithful at FBC Jax, and best wishes for success in the future.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Whistle Blower" at Church Breaks Another Jacksonville Church Sex Abuse Scandal....

Yesterday the Times Union newspaper and News4Jax reported on what seems to be another brewing sex scandal at a Jacksonville church, the Greater Refuge Temple of Jacksonville, which is part of the COOLJC denomination: the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ of Apostolic Faith, Inc. The accused perpetrators are relatives of the pastor: his son, and the son's brother-in-law.

According to the news reports, an "anonymous person" within the church reported the allegations, which led to an investigation and the arrest of the two men. The pastor's son is accused of molesting a 13-year old boy on church property for several years on at least 20 occasions, including during Bible study - the other man is accused of molesting a girl at knife-point.

The allegations go back over 10 years. The Assistant State Attorney is fighting for very high bail amounts for fear of retalliation against the victims if the men are out. This fear apparently stems from a monitored phone call between the victim and the pastor's son where he told his victim: "Your foolishness is going to destroy the ministry. The devil wants to destroy us all....this foolishness must be put in the past. Get over it. Forgive. Move on."

Same old story. Blame the victim. You'll destroy the ministry. You're doing the devil's work. Get over it. Move on.

In fact, not reported in either of the written news reports, but reported on the video report by TV reporter Diane Cho at News4Jax:

"The search warrant actually states some of these family members even knew of some of the sexual abuse that had been going on for nearly a decade but they say that no one actually reported it or did anything about it, because no one believed the victims."

This is unfathomable...after the two very high profile church sex scandals here in Jacksonville over the past 5 years at Trinity Baptist Church and Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church - church members still don't listen to kids who claim they were abused?

An interesting aspect of this story is the anonymity of the person who reported this to the police, who appears to be a concerned church member who wanted to see justice served. According to the prosecutor: "They love their church. It's all they've ever known...what their fears are are being made to feel like they've done something wrong and that they're at fault." But this is the same story over and over again - those who report the abuse - whether it be the victim themselves or someone else who has decided to take action - they are blamed by church members as the cause of the unrest in the church and are hated and told to be quiet and not cause trouble. I'm glad the Assistant State Attorney recognizes the need for the anonymity of the whistle-blower, as sadly, they too can face retribution from church members.

By the way, I first heard of this story at Tiffany Croft's blog yesterday as she provided a hyperlink to the breaking story, which is her first post in over 7 months. You might want to visit her site, and I'm sure Christa Brown will follow this story as well.

Interestingly, the COOLJC denominational leaders from all over the country are meeting here in Jacksonville in April for their "71st International Congress" - they are all staying down at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fellowship Church Hypocrisy?

While we work to get the Ed Young, Jr. videos restored on Vimeo, I just wanted to point out the hypocrisy of Ed Young, Jr. and Fellowship Church, regarding their take down of videos containing excerpts of his sermons by claiming a copyright infringement.

I wonder if Fellowship Church contacted Gatorade to get approval to use their logo and to make a parody of their trademark name by calling it "Haterade", and then having Ed Young, Jr. take a sip acting and turning his nose up at how nasty it tasted.

Most companies guard the use of their trademarks and logos very carefully, so I doubt Gatorade would actually give approval for the use of their logo and trademark name in this fashion. But who knows, maybe Fellowship Church lawyers sent letters to Gatorade asking for approval and received it. One would hope so, especially considering the video in which this logo and trademark name parody exists had a commercial purpose - unlike my use of his sermon videos - as the entire video was a plug for a church conference to which people had to shell out money to attend.

I enjoyed the Wartburg Watch's post yesterday taking Ed Young to task for the takedown move. Go read it here.

Below are still shots from the Ed Young YouTube video for the Hillsong Church Conference containing the "HaterAde"....and I'm using these under the Fair Use doctrine. That would be funny, if Fellowship Church files a copyright infringement claim with Google regarding my use of pictures of his video in which he is using a copyrighted logo and trademark of a commercial product - but I wouldn't be surprised!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Senator Grassley Issues Report - Some Very Good News for Those Calling for Transparency and Accountability

In 2007, Senator Charles Grassley, head of the Senate Finance Committee, opened an investigation into six "televangelist" ministries over matters of finances, taxes, gifts, housing allowances, etc.

Well, yesterday Grassley issued a "staff memo" and other documents from his committee that summarize their findings thus far.

Don't be fooled by the headlines that oversimplify, and seem to minimize the importance of Grassley's work, or give the appearance that this issue is "over". For instance, from the first line of the Associated Press story:

"A senator's investigation of televangelists has wrapped up after more than three years with no penalties for pastors who refused to cooperate and no definitive findings of wrongdoing."

But this is not the story, and the story is not completed! Keep reading! The bigger story behind the story, if you read the reports and the documentation that Grassley's team put together, is that the Senate Finance Committee has essentially told the religious community that there are major problems with how religious organizations (especially large churches and ministries) are handling their finances - they discuss parsonage allowances, private jets, and million dollar homes, compensation to pastors relatives, lack of proper board oversight, etc.

And the message from Grassley's committee to mega churches and televangelists should be loud and clear: the religious community had better clean up their act else the government will do it for them - through revisions in the tax code.

Sometimes this is how change occurs in American politics - the federal government perceives an injustice or misbehavior by an industry, the government investigates, finds problems to be rectified, and they may give the industry a chance to make changes themselves, to self-regulate BEFORE Congress gets involved. Grassley's team DID investigate, and they absolutely did not like what they saw, and they didn't like the response from most of the "Grassley 6" who did not comply with subpoenas for information. So Grassley has been communicating with the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA) to spearhead this effort of self-regulation before tax-code changes are made.

But we know that televangelists will not, nor will mega churches, ever decide to make changes towards financial accountability and transparency. It is not going to happen for to do that would create financial disaster in their "industry". The government absolutely will have to get involved in changing IRS tax codes. But the process is starting, and that is good news.

I intend to write more on this in the coming days but wanted to give you some links if you're interested to read for yourself what is behind the story that is actually GOOD NEWS for those of us calling for financial transparency in our churches.

Staff Memo to Grassley - THIS IS THE "REPORT" - 60 pages, pdf format

Grassley's Press Release - at bottom are links to the Staff Memo, and other documentation

Associated Press News Story

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fellowship Church Claims Copyright Infringement, Gets Videos Removed from Vimeo

Update: There is one place you can still listen to the Ed Young sermon excerpt asking for his church to fill out forms with their checking account and routing number. It is at Fighting for the Faith, on the November 2nd podcast, starting at about the 9:00 minute mark. Chris Rosebrough analyzes the audio of the video that was removed. So far Fellowship Church hasn't successfully removed it from the Rosebrough website.
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If you try to view the Ed Young videos here on this blog that highlighted Ed Young's request for the account and routing numbers to auto-withdrawl the tithe from his church members' checking accounts, you will see the message at left.

Yes, "this video does not exist", says the message.

Actually, the video does exist, just not anymore on Vimeo where it originally was posted, and more than 40,000 views were logged, and where many bloggers had linked to allow their readers to see for themselves a pastor actually request the account and bank routing numbers from his members.

Fellowship Church has claimed the videos - which were for non-commerical use, and for the purpose of educating and providing negative commentary which most agree are legitimate uses that do not constitue a copyright infringement - to force Vimeo to remove the videos from the Watchdog Vimeo account.

We believe these videos absolutely are allowed under the copyright laws under the Fair use doctrine, and are looking at how best to respond.

Interestingly, I don't see that the entire sermons are even still available on the Fellowship Church website. I could be wrong, but I don't seem them anywhere. Must get rid of the evidence, I suppose.

Too bad. Not only does Fellowship Church not want its members to see how the money is spent, they don't even want them to see clips of the preacher ASKING for the money.

Another example of "takin' it to a whole 'nutha level."....which reminds me, here is another video they need to take down: