"...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

Monday, August 29, 2011

Clergy Housing Allowance is Sexist as Applied by Many Southern Baptists

"In general, the IRS and the courts require that a minister be ordained, commissioned, or licensed.... [to] be deemed to be a minister for tax reporting purposes." Richard Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

"Therefore, be it RESOLVED.....that we encourage the service of women in all aspects of church life and work other than pastoral functions and leadership roles entailing ordination." Southern Baptist Convention Resolution, voted and approved June 1984

"Do I believe in women behind the pulpit? You bet I do, how else do you expect them to vacuum back here if they can't get behind it?" Ergun Caner, 2007, at Ohio Free Will Baptist Men's Retreat
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One aspect of the clergy housing allowance that is being overlooked, is the unfair, and sexist manner in which the allowance is applied by many Southern Baptist churches.

As seen in the quote above, it is the official policy of Southern Baptists NOT to ordain women - even those who are seminary trained and have decades of experience serving in churches as ministers. Yet some of these same churches will ordain men who are hired on staff with absolutely no seminary training or ministerial experience! FBC Jax is one of these churches.

While ordained ministers can enjoy this benefit of receiving a portion of their pay for their housing, furnishings, maintenance and utilities tax free - this benefit is denied to many female ministers in the SBC simply because they cannot be "ordained". And thus women employed as ministers at most SBC churches, cannot be considered "ministers" for IRS tax purposes.

What employees of a church would be considered a "minister" by the IRS, and would thus be eligible for the housing allowance benefit? The short answer is, they must be ordained or licensed.

Probably the best overview of the clergy housing allowance benefit and who qualifies for it, is given here by the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA). If you want a more in depth discussion, you can go to this document and read pages 92 and beyond which deals with who qualifies as a "minister" for tax purposes.

Without boring you with too much detail, there have been two tax court rulings that effectively created two "tests" to be applied to ministers in determining if they are a "minister" as defined by the IRS. These two rules are the "Wingo Test" and the "Knight Test". The Knight test is the most recent, and it requires the minister to be "ordained, commissioned, or licensed", and then there are four other provisions that may or may not be met.

Here are the requirements of the Knight test, defining a minister for tax purposes:

1. administers sacraments;
2. conducts religious worship;
3. has management responsibility in a local church;
4. is ordained, commissioned, or licensed;
5. is considered to be a religious leader by his or her church or denomination

In a ruling subsequent to the Knight case, the IRS determined that only the fourth factor is absolutely required, and the others are applied in a balancing test. If the church's ruling authority (such as board of trustees or elders) believes the minister qualifies, and if the minister submits a written request and dollar amount, the church can issue a separate pay check for the amount of the housing allowance and no taxes are deducted on that portion. There is no limit to how much of their pay can be designated for the housing allowance, and as discussed in my previous post it can even apply to multiple homes. And the minister receives a double tax benefit in that they can still deduct mortgage interest from the taxable portion of their income!

So the IRS requires "ordination, commission, or licensure" of the minister. But the SBC does not "license" ministers, and I don't think they "commission" people except perhaps missionaries, thus ordination is the standard method used to designate a "minister" in the SBC. But women cannot be ordained in most SBC churches. Thus, the IRS rule is set up to unfairly exclude female ministers in the SBC from enjoying this tax benefit.

Let me give an example of the ridiculousness of this: at FBC Jax, over the years there have been several female full-time vocational ministers holding the position of "director". They are seminary trained, they are in leadership positions, but because they are not ordained can't enjoy the housing allowance benefit, while their male counterparts of mostly equal job responsibilities do.

There are multiple male ministers on staff at FBC Jax who are not seminary trained, but hold the title of "Reverend". These men joined the FBC Jax staff with no formal seminary training or credentials or formal vocational ministry experience, yet were promptly ordained and immediately enjoyed the title of "Reverend". I know of three of them: Dan Elkins, John Blount, and Kevin King. All three hold and use the title of "Reverend".

Reverend Elkins's job title is "Middle School Pastor", while Shelly Norman's job title was "Elementary Ministry Director". Shelly has close to 20 years ministerial experience, and a degree from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. Elkins, at the time of his hiring and ordination, had a bachelor's degree from UF (chemistry I believe), and little or no vocational ministry experience. Yet he is a deemed a "pastor", and Shelly a "director". They both served the same functional purpose in their employment - Shelly coordinated the children's ministries, Dan the middle school ministries.

But Dan is a male, and thus he is entitled to be a "Reverend" and a "Pastor". Shelly is female, and thus she is "Ms. Shelly" and a "Director". Same job functions, but gender makes the difference between Pastor and Director.

Now I do not know for sure if Elkins, Blount, and King enjoy the housing allowance benefit, but my point is that FBC Jax has taken steps to ensure that under the IRS rules they would qualify using the Knight test. They have been ordained with no credentials or formal seminary training whatsoever, they have been given the opportunity to "conduct a worship service" by preaching at least once in the Main auditorium. So I would have to imagine the good 'ole boys on the FBCJ board of trustees have made sure their male ministers enjoy the tax benefit. Elkins, Blount, and King have management responsibility in the church, and by virtue of their title and job descriptions they would be considered "leaders".

But take a female minister at FBCJ, like Shelly Norman: she is seminary trained, does hold management responsibility in the church, and DOES conduct religious worship of children, and she is considered a "leader" by those that volunteer in her ministry. She is a minister by any reasonable definition and does meet 3 of the 5 requirements of the Knight test, but because of the lack of "ordination" she is not a minister by the IRS definition.

Thus, because females can't be called "Reverend", no housing allowance for them.

I would say that if "Reverend" Elkins or "Reverend" Blount or "Reverend" King qualify as "ministers", then certainly seminary trained female ministers who hold similar positions at the church should as well, at least for tax purposes. The test should be primarily a functional test, not one of ordination or licensure.

The IRS either needs to change their definition of ministers, knowing that some denominations specifically exclude women from ordination, or better yet they need to do away with this tax benefit altogether.

I prefer the latter, as ministers are now mostly degreed professionals who earn salaries and benefits and don't live in parsonages, and thus this benefit has outlived its purpose and should be a thing of the past.

But at the very least, let's not leave the decision of who enjoys a ministerial tax benefit to guys like Ergun Caner and his Baptist buddies who believe a woman's most useful function in church is performed with an apron and a vacuum cleaner.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Parsonage Tax Benefit Abused by Wealthy Clergy Now Applies to Multiple Homes

The Wall Street Journal this week reported on a recent U.S. tax court ruling that says the tax rules allowing ministers to buy and maintain their "parsonage" tax free - get this - it applies to MULTIPLE homes!

Yes, the tax provision put into place decades ago to help men-of-the-cloth earning meager incomes to be able afford housing, can now be abused by wealthy clergy to purchase and maintain multiple homes - all tax-free.

Furthermore, there is no monetary limit to the tax-free dollars. The fair market rental value of the property including maintenance, furnishings and utilities can be exempted - this could be a small apartment, or could be a multi-million dollar mansion.

And as the Wall Street Journal reports, it can be applied to multiple clergy homes. And to make it worse, clergy can receive a double benefit, as they still can deduct mortgage interest paid if they itemize their deductions. Pastor William Thornton has an excellent article on his blog this week in which he rightly points out that the disgust over this benefit is not over typical pastors who save a few thousand dollars in taxes each year. Rather it is the wealthy ministers who use the loophole to avoid paying taxes on multiple tens of thousands of dollars of income used to buy lavish homes, sometimes second homes, that puts this clergy tax benefit at risk of repeal.

Most Christians would not object to a pastor and his family enjoying such a benefit if they are earning a meager, or even reasonable salary from their small church. But all Christians should be appalled that this benefit applies to the extremely wealthy mega church pastors, especially those who misuses the bible and beat their sheep to convince them that God requires 10% of their income be given to the church.

Not surprisingly, most mega church members are clueless as to the lavish lifestyle their beloved pastors live. Last year it took Brett Shipp at WFAA to expose Ed Young's "parsonage" valued at over a million dollars, and that he owned a second home, a Miami beach house.

I wonder if Ed Young pays for both of these homes and their upkeep and their utilities with tax-free income?

Not sure if the FBC Jax faithful realize that their own pastor owns two homes now. Mac and Deb Brunson own a home in Jacksonville valued at $900,000 (sitting on property given to him by a church member valued at $307,000), and now according to public records, the Brunson family owns a St. Augustine Beach condo purchased in 2009 for $309,000. Apparently the Brunson's formed a corporation called DDCTW, Inc. which owns the condo in St. Augustine Beach. Deb Brunson and daughter Courtney Chesney are the officers of the corporation, and FBC Jax trustee Jarrett McConnell is the corporation's registered agent.

Given the financial blessings Brunson has, it is pretty laughable to hear Brunson compare himself to Job in his recent sermon series, as some sort of suffering servant of God being attacked by the devil.

I wonder if Mac Brunson pays for both of these homes and their upkeep and their utilities with tax-free income?

In my next article, I will address another aspect of this tax loophole for clergy that spells its doom: how in some Southern Baptist Churches, including FBC Jax, only male vocational ministers get to enjoy the clergy tax benefit, while the female ministers are excluded.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Berean Baptist: Another Example of Arrogant Church Pastors and Their Sycophants Who Think They Are Above the Law

Below is a video news report from First Coast News in Jacksonville that shows portions of the video tape released by the Clay County Sheriff's Office, showing evidence of Berean Baptist Church Pastor Greg Neal's involvement in a secret video tape made in his office while female church members undressed.

In the video you will see Greg Neal's father and co-pastor declare his son's innocence, and then make this statement:

"I am more convinced than ever that my son is innocent...and I want to assure you that we are investigating, we will get to the bottom of this, and I'll have much to say about this in the coming days."

Really? "We" are investigating? His church is investigating? Why are they just NOW investigating a video tape that has been around for 9 years or so? This same man denied the very existence of the video tape for years.

This pastor thinks the people of Jacksonville are fools. You see, if you read the Clay County Sheriff's Office investigation report, this statement is made about the detective's criminal investigation into the illegal video tape and this pastor's refusal to help:

"After several attempts to contact the suspect, Gregory Michael Neal, and his father Herman Thomas Neal, they refused to cooperate with this investigation or provide a statement."

So if someone besides Greg Neal made this video tape as his dad says, then that means that there might have been a pervert on the loose at Berean Baptist Church. Why would the pastors NOT cooperate with authorities in their investigation? Sure, the statute of limitations ran out on THIS video tape, but perhaps there are more. Maybe women at Berean are still at risk with a pervert voyeur watching them and video taping them.

You see, this is what modern, institutionalized Christianity has become under the leadership of powerful, professional clergy who act to protect their jobs and power: pastors and their following lay leaders who think they are above the law as they go about doing God's will. The Neals refused to cooperate in the police investigation of crimes against women in their church, but when the news cameras show up, they tell Jacksonville not to worry, they are on the case and will get to the bottom of it. Yes, the discipline committee of Berean Baptist church, versus the Clay County Sheriff's Office. You've got to be kidding me.

Another recent example: Langworthy out at Prestonwood is molesting kids, and the church leadership does not report it to the police. They do their own investigation, and then decide to simply send Langworthy packing to another church with no warning to the parents and kids of Langworthy's new church.

Another quote from the Berean Baptist police report that should send chills down the spine of church members:

"While speaking with both William [the member who reported the tape to police] and [victim's name], they informed me of some of the concerns they had for their safety. Both said the church leaders have been known to cast out and in some cases threaten harm to those who oppose them. Both William and [victim's name] said they fear retaliation for their statements and accusations."

That is in the police report. Yes, in fundamentalist churches with powerful pastors and dedicated lay leaders who protect their pastor at all costs, this is a real concern: pastors taking revenge on people who dare to speak up in opposition to the pastor. And William Cochran's fears were well-founded, as he says after he informed members of the video tape he was escorted off the church property.

I go back to my own experience with FBC Jax and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in 2008 as another example of this institutional arrogance. During depositions last summer in the federal lawsuit against the City of Jacksonville and the Sheriff's Office, it was clear from church administrator John Blount's and Detective Hinson's testimony that Hinson opened his investigation into the FBC Jax Watchdog blog at the sole request of John Blount during a chance encounter on church property (the day after Chest of Joash). The detective then issued subpoenas to Google and Comcast to find my name, and he closed his investigation at the request of John Blount - after Blount got what he wanted: my name.

Even though Hinson interviewed no one in his "investigation", and even though he admitted under oath he still had "concerns" about the blogger, he still closed his investigation - because the head administrator at his church wanted it closed. And of course none of this was in his police report - it all had to come out in depositions of a federal lawsuit.

And at the time, Detective Hinson was a member of the church's discipline committee who sought my identity - a clear conflict of interest. Hinson never disclosed this conflict of interest...it only came out when we asked John Blount the right question at his deposition - and thankfully John Blount admitted that yes, Robert Hinson was on the church's discipline committee at the time of his investigation into my blog. Someone had the bright idea at FBC Jax that putting a detective with subpoena power on their newly formed discipline committee would be a great idea. What stupidity and arrogance.

After stories like that, and this one of Berean Baptist not wanting to help the police, and Prestonwood Baptist Church not reporting a crime to the police...it is clear that churches with powerful pastors think they are above the law.

This sort of behavior should not surprise us, since these people view their pastor as "God's man" a "prophet of God", doing the most important work of saving souls, and thus anyone that opposes him, or blogs about him, or speaks ill of him, or decides to investigate him, must be of the devil.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jim Smyrl's Church, LHBC, Distributes the "Member Covenant"

This past week Jim Smyrl's new church, Loyal Heart Bible Church, distributed it's "Member Covenant".

The Watchdog did get his copy delivered this weekend from a reader of the blog, and I have had a chance to review it. I was a bit concerned what it might contain, given Smyrl's reformed theology and knowing what other reformed churches require their members to sign - a list of rules and regulations, and an agreement to submit to the "authority" of the church.

I am not going to provide the entire covenant here - it is two pages in length - but will give some portions and commentary of what stuck out to me, and I'm going to compare and contrast this covenant with portions of the bylaws from FBC Jax from whence Smyrl comes. The "member convenant" for FBC Jax members is found in Article V of their bylaws.

It Was Distributed to Everyone
What a concept! Smyrl actually drafted the covenant, and is letting everyone have a hard copy, and they were allowed to take it home with them!! Unlike the goons at FBC Jax, who when they made significant changes to their bylaws in December 2007, they did not distribute them, they only allowed members to read them in the church library, but could NOT take a copy with them!! Then, before voting, neither the pastor, nor the president of the trustees, nor the head deacon read or even described the nature of the changes, they just called for a vote! The changes significantly changed the church governance, added a discipline committee, and other very significant changes, as I blogged 2 1/2 years ago here, here, here, and here.

So kudos to you, Jim, you're letting the folks have a hard copy. A.C. Soud, are you reading this? When will you freely distribute and post the December 2007 bylaw changes? Why not post them on the Internet, like you did the Deacons Resolution 2009-1?(affectionately called the "Anti-Criticism Doctrine" by yours truly).

Members Must Sign It
The covenant says all LHBC members must sign it. If I wanted to join Smyrl's church I wouldn't sign it. Why does one have to sign it to become a member? Why does one have to become a "member" anyways? Why not just attend, and contribute as the Lord leads? I would drop that requirement, Jim. The covenant already says that the congregation will reaffirm their commitment to it at the beginning of every communion service.

Members Affirm They Will Live "Under the Authority of Christ"

Biggest shocker - the document doesn't require members to submit themselves to the authority of the pastor, the elders, or the deacons or any other special group of believers.

No Reference to "Pastor" or "Elder"
There is no definition of church heirarchy. It refers to "believers", "mutual submission", "working in brotherly love". It does not set up a difference between the pastor and elders, and the regular members. Throughout it assumes all believers are on equal footing with one another. I assume that there will be "bylaws" at some point that flesh out some sort of operational structure of the church, but at least the covenant recognizes the priesthood of the believer, and not the "senior pastor".

Doesn't Require Members to "Love, Honor, and Esteem" Their Pastor
One of the creepiest aspects of the FBC Jax member covenant is this requirement of members:

"It shall be the duty of each and every member of this Church to honor, esteem and love the Pastor, to pray for him constantly, and to manifest a tender regard for his reputation."

Notice, that is NOT in Smyrl's member covenant - he doesn't mention "pastor" at all. The further time slips that I have been away from First Baptist Jacksonville, the more that statement makes my skin crawl. Who on earth prays for their pastor "constantly", and why would that be a "duty" of each and every member? What on earth does it mean in the real world to "manifest a tender regard for his reputation" mean? Of course, it means shut up, don't complain, and follow your pastor without question.

So FBC Jax members: you better be meeting your duty to pray constantly for your pastor. Do not complain about your pastor, as to do so would not be to manifest a tender regard for his reputation, and could get you a visit from the discipline committee, or worse! Memo to FBC Jax Trustees: please add a section that requires the pastor to manifest a tender regard for the church's reputation, ok? Thanks.

Does Specify "Church Discipline", No Discipline Committee
Smyrl's covenant does state that they will "...lovingly seek to restore a believer in sin through the practice of biblical restoration including the removal of unrepentant members from our fellowship." I don't see the creation of a discipline committee, but that could come in future LHBC bylaws. The FBC Jax bylaws specify a discipline process which in effect excludes the pastor, since the discipline committee has to get the approval of the pastor before taking disciplanary action! (FBC Jax bylaws, Article XIV, Section 4).

Does Not Require Members to Waive Legal Rights
The covenant doesn't require members to waive their rights to file legal action against the church. Unbelievably, in the December 2007 bylaw changes at FBC Jax, the following statement was added in Article XIV:

"All members waive the right to file any legal action against the Church in a civil court or agency."

And they didn't even bother to explain to the plebe at the voting meeting that this was what they were voting on.

So all in all, not a bad covenant. As I said, Smyrl freely distributed it, and people can read it and judge it for themselves.

LHBC members, I urge you to demand that any bylaws drawn up for LHBC that further define your responsibilities, a discipline process, how elders are selected, etc. etc. be freely distributed to everyone. I am confident Smyrl will do this, as he most certainly had to see the injustice done at FBC Jax by trustees making changes to bylaws and not making every effort possible to educate the members.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Driscoll Claims to Have Specific Visions of Sexual and Violent Assaults Against Church Members: Did He Report These to the Police?



"On occasion I see things...it's the supernatural. It's a whole other realm. It's like 'The Matrix', you can take the blue pill, you can take the red pill. You go into this whole other world, and that's the way it works....I've seen women raped, I've seen children molested..."

I know I said a few weeks ago that I thought I had seen everything when I watched James Merritt pitch the Fortune HTM multi-level marketing scheme at his church.

I was wrong. I hadn't seen it all.

But NOW I think I finally have seen it all: Mars-Hill mega church pastor Mark Driscoll on tape, telling people that he "sees things" that he has special visions. Visions of rape, incest, spousal abuse, and graphic adultery - and the visions involve real people that he confronts and his visions end up being correct!

Watch the video above, and you can hear Driscoll explain the following violent crimes that he saw committed against specific individuals, that he later approached and CONFIRMED that they actually happened exactly as he saw them in the vision:

1. At the 0:25 mark of the video he describes that he had a vision of a person being molested as a 1-2 year old, confronted the victim about his vision, and the victim went and confronted the perpetrator who admitted it. The victim came back and told Mark that indeed he was right.

2. Driscoll describes in graphic detail how he had a vision of a female church member having adulterous sex with a "really tall blonde guy", graphically describing it, and even throwing in the detail that she had sex with the light on because the blonde guy was her "fantasy body type". He confronted the woman with the vision and she confessed.

3. At the 2:45 mark, Driscoll tells a person that their grandfather had molested her. She confronted her grandfather, and Driscoll says he admitted it.

4. Driscoll describes a woman at his church who walked by and he had a vision of the husband the night before throwing her against the wall, grabbing her by the throat and "physically assaulting" her. Driscoll says he confronted her with the details of the vision, and she broke down and admitted his vision was correct. Driscoll called the husband into the church and he confessed. Driscoll said he told the abuser that "Jesus told him" about the abuse, not the wife.

And elsewhere in this brief video Driscoll talks of having visions of women being raped, children molested, people abused and beaten, even children being dedicated in cultic groups as infants.

This all is too weird. The video raises the following serious questions:

- why are his visions only about perverted sex acts and physical violence? Why aren't his visions about, say, a husband who was really sweet with his wife and took her to dinner the night before, or a grandpa picking daisies with his granddaughter the day before?

- Driscoll stood in front of a camera and described specific, horrific crimes committed against specific individuals by specific offenders. Did he contact the authorities once he learned of the molestation by the grandfather? Did he call the police when he discovered that a woman actually was violently abused by her husband the night before? Was it wise to actually call the hubby and bring him in the room to confront him with the wife present? Why didn't Driscoll instead tell her to immediately go to the police station and report her husband's abusive behavior?

- if he has these accurate visions of crimes against church members that are correct most of the time, why not go to the police and offer his services? He could help them solve crimes. Perhaps he could author a TV series where the mega church preacher helps the sheriff's office solve violent sex crimes as he receives visions from Jesus of the crimes being committed, a "Justice by Jesus" show...wait, I think there is one similar to this out there. Oh, wait, I think I'm getting it now...

I guess what is most offensive about all of this poppycock is that Driscoll actually thinks people believe him.

Driscoll describes his visions as "...you can take the blue pill, you can take red pill."

I say, you can drink the grape Kool-Aid, or you can drink the cherry Kool-Aid. Take your pick, it is all the same: Looney Tunes in the world of egomaniac mega church pastors who believe they have special powers and aren't afraid to declare it in front of the camera.
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H/T: Coffee Trader-News and Views, Pyromaniacs Blog

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Peeping Pastor" - Jacksonville Baptist Pastor Accused of Secretly Videotaping Girls Changing - Church Member Kicked Out for Telling the Truth

This time it is a "peeping pastor".

Greg Neal, a Jacksonville Baptist pastor at Berean Baptist Church, was found to be videotaping girls undressing in the church.

But unfortunately the statute of limitations of the crime was two years, and it is too late for him to be charged for the act that occurred back in 2001.

And as anyone following the actions of Baptist pastors and churches would expect, instead of the church leaders taking action against their peeping pastor, guess what they did? Yep, they turned the tables on the man who alerted the church members of the evidence against the pastor. They escorted the "evil doer" off church property and according to the man he and others were vilified from the pulpit for wanting to destroy the church.

Any of this sound familiar? Doug Pittman, can you relate?

As reported by Fox-30 Action News (and the Florida Times Union), church member Bill Cochran wrote a letter to his fellow church members at Berean Baptist Church to warn them about evidence he had that their pastor, Greg Neal, had secretly videotaped young women changing clothes in the church.

There were rumors for years about the video tape, but it was never handed over to the police until 2011. The Assistant State Attorney said the evidence against Neal was "clear" and "overwhelming", but charges can't be filed because of the time that has passed.

Here are the quotes from church member Cochran who was vilified by his church for letting the cat out of the bag:

"Finally, I had enough information that I could no longer just sit there and listen to all the lies and the manipulation that was going on."

"I was told it was all a lie. That there was no video tape. There never has been a video tape."

"Those of us who knew the truth and who were gone were portrayed from the pulpit as evil, vile, Satan worshipers, wicked people who wanted to bring down the church."

After Cochran sent his letter to the church members he says he was escorted off the church property. Who knows, maybe he and his wife received trespass papers too?

The Clay County Sheriff's Office says they will release parts of the video tape on Wednesday that clearly show the pastor's guilt. The news report says it shows the pastor setting up the camera, hiding it, and coming back to get it after the girls left.

One other side note to this story is how the Fox-30 news reporter Catherine Varnum was rudely confronted by the burly church bully shown at the right. If you watch the August 15th news report below, you'll see the news reporter at the church asking questions about the allegations against their pastor. The bully came through the front door of the church and got in her face and was extremely aggressive. Maybe Billy the Baptist Bully is just implementing A.C. Soud's FBC Jax Deacon's Resolution 2009-1 and "aggressively confronting" this reporter's "unjust criticism". No surprise that a fundamentalist church like Berean would have one of its leaders treat a woman in that way. Do you think Mr. Tough-guy would have acted so aggressively if the reporter were a man? Don't think so. He should have quoted 1 Cor 14:34 to the reporter: "Women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says."

The church should be ashamed of their pastor, and of the bully who tried to throw the reporter off the church property.

Berean Baptist Church members: either run off the pastor and the bully above and their buddies, or you yourselves should run as fast as you can to another church...and hope and pray there isn't a video tape somewhere in the pastor's office of YOUR daughter changing clothes.

And the Watchdog will be sure to put the video evidence up for all to see what it looks like when a "man of God" is acting like a "voyeuristic vicar".

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Fox-30 News Report from Tuesday August 16th:



Fox-30 News Report from Monday August 15th:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Christian, You are Free from the Duty to Tithe, and Free to Give as the Holy Spirit Leads You



"I do not believe there is a duty to the tithe. Here is what I believe: I believe God prospers you and blesses you according to His graces and His gifts which he gives to you freely and without measure. That everything you have is His and you should be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and you should give as the Holy Spirit prompts you in response to your love for the fact that you've been set free from the duty to give."
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In this final clip from Wade Burleson's January 2, 2011 sermon on Jesus being our Jubilee, Wade uses the "tithe" as an example of the freedom we have through Christ. As Wade says, we are not duty-bound to give some prescribed amount to church. We are free from this duty, Christ has set us free in the New Covenant!

It is so simple, and so clear from scripture, that Wade is speaking the truth.

But for most of you reading this, you've never heard a preacher ever say this from the pulpit. You've heard storehouse tithing preachers tell you that 10% is the starting point, that you're sinning if you don't give, that you're a "taker" if you don't tithe, that you need to "man up" and tithe. Some of you have even heard your preacher tell you to stay home, quit wasting God's time if you don't "bring the tithe". Some of you have had to endure your preacher calling you a thief, even threatening you with financial calamity because "God collects" on what you owe him.

Why? Why is the clear teaching from scripture hardly ever taught, and why do so many preachers use tactics of guilt and shame and legalism to coerce people to fork over more money to their church?

Well, perhaps preachers who preach the storehouse tithing doctrine are sincere and actually believe it.

But I think deep down most preachers who preach this storehouse tithing doctrine don't truly believe that any Christian who does not give 10% is sinning. I don't think they could pass a polygraph test on this. I believe deep down they know they do it because they are afraid of the financial consequences at their church if they don't teach it. They know it is a tradition, not a biblical doctrine, but they believe they are right to teach it because it raises necessary funds to further the gospel.

But what about the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God?

Today we hear much about the "Sovereignty of God" in all things under heaven and earth. Preachers tell us God is sovereign in our lives, our families, in our country, and in our churches. God is sovereign even in who does and does not accept Christ, we're told. But when it comes to finances in the church, the Sovereignty doctrine goes out the window. Nope, God is not in control over THAT. The preacher becomes the Holy Spirit, and misuses scripture to beat and guilt the sheep to give more and more of their money.

Thank God for preachers like Wade - they communicate financial needs, and leave the results to God. God is sovereign in the finances of the church. As Wade says, if the people give the money that is great. If they don't, that is great too because that means God is telling them something different. But as Wade reports in the video, his church has met all of their financial needs simply trusting God's people to follow the Holy Spirit.

How sad that if the storehouse tithing preachers don't get enough cold hard cash, it can't be God's will - it has to be the deadbeat, stingy "giving units" who are not tithing and are thwarting the will of God.

When if they would preach the truth of people's freedom to give as the Spirit leads - I believe the revenue of their church would actually go up. People are tired of being brow-beaten, and how refreshing would it be to hear a mega church pastor preach the truth.

Note: If you want to see Wade's sermon in its entirety, go to his church's website here, click on the "Watch Live" button in the upper right hand corner, register for a login account, then go to his January 2, 2011 sermon entitled "Your Year of Jubilee".

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Previous Posts:

Part 1: "Christian, Jesus is Your Jubilee, and You Can Rest" - July 21, 2011
Part 2: "Christian, You have Been Released from Servitude to God" - July 27, 2011
Part 3: "Christian, You are Free, a Willing Bondslave" - August 2, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Glimpse Into How Fundamentalist Baptist Preachers' Minds Work: Agree With Me, or You are a Heretic

I'm not sure why I'm writing about a blog post written by Les Puryear, but Les is one of the pastors in the blogosphere who makes no bones about what he believes and what YOU should believe, and is not afraid to tell you that you're wrong and he is right. I do appreciate that in Les - it isn't hard to figure out what he believes - but every so often he gives us regular lay folk a glimpse into how the minds of fundamentalist preachers operate.

And it is not a pretty picture at all.

In a very short blog post entitled "The Bottom Line: Obey God's Word", Les explains who are "false prophets":
"There are those who will try to persuade you that the Bible doesn't require you to tithe, that women pastors are acceptable to God, that it's okay to play with the dynamite of alcohol, and that you have no choice about your salvation. Don't believe them. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who tells you that the Bible does not say what it plainly says, is a false prophet and is not to be believed. Do not be misled by those who teach you to disobey God's word."
Les gives you his list of the hot topics that mark false teachers today: tithing, women pastors, alcohol, and something or other having to do with Calvinism (which I won't touch except to say that Les himself was a Calvinist until recently, so I guess he was once a false teacher??). This is rubbish, as even a lowly lay person like myself knows the verse Les quotes (2 Tim 3:13-15) is speaking of people who call into question essential doctrines such as the resurrection or the deity of Christ- not about tithes or women pastors or Bud Light.

I can relate to Les, and I actually have pity on him. I too once measured someone's dedication to the Lord, and even their soul's eternal destination based on how they viewed alcohol, whether they thought women were worthy to be pastors (or even deacons), and if someone believed and obeyed an interpretation of Malachi 3 requiring them to give 10% to the church. I'm not kidding...I was saved in and lived in a fundamentalist system that said if you drink alcohol, or even simply failed to teach it as a sin, then you are either eternally stupid or perhaps not really saved. I was taught and believed that even to have women deacons was an abomination in the church. And of course, if you don't believe in the "tithe" you are a no good liberal who didn't believe the bible and were probably not saved.

Funny thing is, I have come to understand that "men of God" vocational preachers who teach what Les teaches are perhaps the ones who are the false prophets spoken of in 2 Tim 3:13-15. Les is NOT saying that you have to obey the Bible...he is saying that you have to agree with him and obey HIS interpretation of scripture in these matters that are of secondary importance. He and his ilk are not comfortable with what the bible says and does not say, so they will add their strict interpretation to the bible, and require others to agree with them else they are labeled heretics.

I do understand his tithing interpretation (I've been taught it for almost 30 years), but in no way, shape or form does the bible clearly teach that a person MUST give 10% of their income else they are in sin - and it certainly doesn't mean they are cursed. No, it is clear: a Christian is free to give as the spirit leads. And most recently I have come to understand the bible does not forbid a woman from serving as a "pastor".

On alcohol, I think abstinence is a wise choice. The bible does not forbid a Christian from drinking alcohol, it warns against drunkenness. I'm OK with that. I am free to teach my kids that abstinence is the best way and I highly recommend it...but I am no longer so insecure that I can't be honest with them about what the Bible says and what it does not say, and then give them wise council that has served me well.

Les says: "Do not be misled by those who teach you to disobey God's word."

I say:

"Do not be misled by those who add to what the bible says and then require you to obey their interpretation to call yourself a Christian. Run from these self-proclaimed "Men of God", as they are after your very soul - and your wallet."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Christa Brown Makes Clear Case for Predator Database in Light of Langworthy/Prestonwood Scandal

On this blog and Wade Burleson's blog, Christa Brown - attorney, author, and creator of the Stop Baptist Predators website - has posted a comment calling again for the establishment of a Southern Baptist sexual predator database, pointing to how it very well could have prevented Langworthy from so easily going to a sister church undetected. She makes a great point that the most common scenario would not be a church self-reporting a predator in their midst (we see that time and again), but for victims, or even lay people or staffers to come forth with credible accusations. Amy Smith should not have had to work for an entire year before Langworthy finally was exposed.

Here is Christa's comment as it appeared on this blog (link to the comment is here):

"A database of convicted, admitted and credibly accused ministers could have made a huge difference in this case. By keeping records on credibly accused ministers, Southern Baptists could assure that trained professionals -- people outside the accused minister's immediate circle of trust (and also outside the cover-uppers' circle of trust) -- will assess accusations to determine their credibility.

For example, look at what happened in this case. Amy Smith, the former Prestonwood staff member who is quoted in the WFAA report, had been trying for over a year to get someone to do something. Trying hard. That’s over a year in which still more kids were left at risk, and parents unwarned (that’s in addition to the 21 years’ worth of additional risk that Prestonwood had already allowed by its original inaction). If there had been a denominational office to which Amy could have provided her information – an office with trained professionals -- kids could have been better protected much sooner. That office could have responsibly assessed the allegations, reported on its assessment to Morrison Heights, and then kept a record if the allegations were found credible. (And if a church chose to keep a convicted, admitted or credibly accused minister in the pulpit, the SBC could conceivably choose to disfellowship.)

Such denominational review processes are common for clergy abuse allegations in other major faith groups. If Southern Baptists provided such a process (and if it were truly a safe and welcoming place staffed by trained professionals), there would likely be many more clergy abuse survivors who would bring forward reports of abuse. But as things now stand, there is nowhere within the faith community for them to turn, and most won't even attempt to go to the church of their perpetrator. Since most cases are too old for criminal prosecution, this leaves them with little recourse.

In effect, the creation of a denominational database would help to protect churches against the inaction of their sister churches because it would allow that reports could also be received from knowledgeable church staff members (i.e., people such as Amy Smith) and from abuse survivors. As things now stand, a single church that ordains a minister on minimal standards or that turns a blind eye to egregious conduct can effectively unleash a predator into the larger body of SBC churches. By implementing a denominational system of assessment and record-keeping, Southern Baptists could assure that churches have a chance to be better informed about their clergy. They could also provide a compassionate hearing within the faith community to those who have been horribly abused within the faith. And even if denominational assessments can’t put a predatory preacher in prison, they can at least assure that he will not be able to use the power and trust of his ministerial position as a weapon."

The following line was added in her comment at Wade's site:

In October 2006, there was a huge discussion of this on the BaptistLife forums, and I compiled a FAQS page based on the questions asked at that time. For those interested, it’s here."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In the Langworthy/Prestonwood Story, Bloggers Once Again Show They are Sorely Needed to Get Truth Out

As much as mega church pastors want blogs like this one and New BBC Open Forum and Wartburg Watch - blogs run by lowly lay folk - to stop analyzing and criticizing and discussing abusive mega churches and their pastors, events of the last few days show once again why these blogs are so darned necessary.

Just as bloggers last summer were instrumental in finally getting Liberty University to investigate the deceptions of Ergun Caner, so now a blogger played an instrumental role in a church sex abuse scandal.

I'm sure the Watchdog readers have been reading about John Langworthy, the music minister in Clinton, MS that confessed to "sexual indiscretions with younger males" (most people call them "sex crimes") when he was a youth music minister some 20 years prior at the super mega church Prestonwood Baptist Church. If you haven't read about it yet, see Brett Shipp's report here, and read Bob Allen's story here. Bottom line: Langworthy for 22 years has served as a music minister and public school teacher while the parents of children at his church and in his community had absolutely no idea of his "indiscretions" (sex crimes) back at Prestonwood.

With the help of the New BBC Open Forum blog recently, former Prestonwood Baptist staffer Amy Smith was able to get the attention of folks in Langworthy's new church and community. Finally as word spread among the people at Langworthy's church, and they did Internet searches that landed them on the New BBC Open Forum post here, they realized they may have a pedophile in their midst. Their church leadership began an investigation, and then Brett Shipp became involved. Brett covered the story because of the connection of Langworthy to Prestonwood, and their apparent failure to report Langworthy's crimes to the police back in 1989 and instead let him slip away to another church.

Prestonwood Pastor Jack Graham and his church are in hot water - they need to answer questions like:

- why did Prestonwood not report Langworthy's "indiscretions" to the police so they could investigate? Why did they do their own investigation?

- why did Prestonwood not alert Langworthy's new church so they could act to protect the children of that church from a suspected pedophile?

- why did Jack Graham in 2008 tell the Southern Baptist Convention that in 40 years of his ministry “never have I had one moral problem with a staff member, until now.” Not true. He was pastor at Prestonwood when Langworthy was sent packing. Bob Allen does a great job covering this angle of the Langworthy/Prestonwood story.

- what will Prestonwood leadership do if it is found that Langworthy has more victims over the past 20 years? Will they accept any responsibility for this in not warning the folks of Clinton, Mississippi?

From Jack Graham's tweets the morning after Shipp's story aired on TV, it seems he doesn't get it. Like Ergun Caner last summer who instead of talking to reporters and answering the allegations and chose instead to make himself the victim of Lucifer and liars, Jack Graham appears to be taking the same tack. After Brett Shipp's story broke, early the next morning Graham posted the following Tweets:


There are MANY victims in this story: the kids Langworthy victimized at Graham's church, the parents in Clinton, MS who were not warned about the risk Langworthy posed to their kids, and possibly more abuse victims there. But I can tell who is NOT a victim - it is not Graham, and it is not Prestonwood Baptist Church as Graham's Tweet's seem to imply. Jack, if you've been falsely accused and lied about in this story - then talk to the reporters. Tell your side of the story completely.

So thanks to Amy Smith for doing the hard work, and thanks to the help of New BBC Open Forum, the truth didn't stay buried, and Langworthy couldn't operate undetected any longer.

Oh, one more thing: maybe Prestonwood is a victim of sorts on another matter. As I blogged last year, they were the victims of perhaps Ergun Caner's all-time biggest fibs back in 2001 right after 9/11 when he preached at Prestonwood that English was not his first language, that he wore a "turbin", and that he was "not proud of the fact that I am part of, was part of, Islamic Jihad".

Thank God for bloggers.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Modern Day "Circuit Riders": Traveling Mega Church Pastors Finding Another Way to Fleece the Flocks and Recycle Their Sermons

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Methodists used "circuit rider" preachers to minister to rural flocks. In our modern evangelical mega church world, we have our own sort of "circuit rider" - the traveling mega church preacher fleecing congregations by accepting large sums of money for recycled sermons at churches they visit.

Just look at who is preaching where this summer, and you see a virtual guest-speaker fest. It is hard to keep track of 'em all. Johnny Hunt goes on sabbatical, and Woodstock has to not only continue to pay Hunt's salary and bennies, they have to pay to bring in some big name preachers to preach the word.

Steve Gaines was preaching at Johnny Hunt's church last Sunday on his vacation, then on Wednesday he preached at Charles Stanley's church. Not bad, get your vacation fully paid by popping into a few churches to recycle an old sermon and tell the peeps they're thieves unless they give the magical 10%. Gaines' church in turn has to hire speakers for the Sunday night sermons in August. [correction: Gaines' church brings in the big guns on Wednesday nights in August, has for several years]. Mac Brunson is a regular on the preaching circuit as I've blogged about before.

The emergents are masters at this. They travel to each others' churches and conferences and push their books, and expand their market for selling their Holy Land trips and building their brand image.

My word, Steve Gaines is even taking speaking gigs at the Assemblies of God functions!

Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church flew out to Charlotte to be at emergent Steven Furtick's church this weekend, while Kevin Ezell comes to Prestonwood to fill in for Pastor Jack. It is a musical chairs of preachers during the summer as they earn extra scratch for their new boat or condo.

Why do they do this? Of course they will tell you they have the most noble of intentions. They are just spreading the gospel, right?

No, not really. It is another example of how the great masses in mega churches are fleeced by greedy mega men of God. Their sermons are already on the Internet, and we don't need to fly them in. It is all completely unnecessary. You want to hear Perry Noble tell you you're scum? Go to his website. Want to hear the latest tithing nonsense? Dial up Gaines or Young on your browser. You don't need to fly him in to the church. Besides, can't other staff members at the church fill in for the mega church pastor who is on vacation or sabbatical? The sad answer is no, they can't, because they aren't celebrities. Many worshippers view Johnny Hunt preaching behind their pulpit in the same way a giggling high school girl would see Justin Beiber crooning at their high school. It is all about celebrity.

Insiders tell me that visiting preachers at mega churches will earn up to $3000 for a Sunday morning sermon, or $5000 if they do the hard work of staying over and preaching the Sunday evening sermon also. But I'm sure they have not one iota of guilt, since they tithe on the money, which makes them super spiritual.

Not bad scratch. If they earn $3000 in addition to their travel, meals and lodging, that is about $100 per minute for an average 30-minute sermon. Not an hour. A MINUTE. That is professional baseball player per minute money. While churches everywhere are seeing their revenue continue to decline, the mega church pastors are hot and heavy to get out on the circuit to get their share of the visiting preacher dollars.

And usually what they are preaching is a sermon that is recycled from one they just were paid to prepare and preach at their mega church. Nothing new or fresh. Mac Brunson does it. Johnny Hunt does it. Steve Gaines does it. The master is Ergun Caner - as for years and years he was preaching virtually the same story, same jokes and lines at churches all over the country.

Sometimes preachers are brought in to do the dirty work of the pastor. One of the more brazen moves was Perry Noble of NewSpring church hiring Robert Morris to come in for two straight weeks to beat up the sheep over tithing, telling them of the curse on them and their money unless they gave Perry's church 10% of their income. Shameless.

And don't get me started on the Holy Land trips and luxury cruises hosted by the pastor and his family. I'm just amazed that in these days where governments at all levels are searching for creative ways to gain new revenue that they haven't figured out there is an entire market that continues to operate tax-free.

So next time the visiting mega church preacher shows up at your church, put a little extra in the offering plate for the poor traveling preacher.

Next thing you know, we'll have preachers pushing multi-level marketing schemes in their churches.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Steve Gaines Exports His Tithing Nonsense to Johnny Hunt's Church: Says Non-Tithers are Thieves, Shouldn't Be Allowed to Even Sing in Choir


"How can you say that you trust the Lord with your eternal soul if you don't trust Him with 10% of your money?....if you're not a tither you ought not to be singing in the choir and you ought not to be leading in any area of the church...some of you drove cars you stole from God...you won't get arrested, but I got news for you, God's got your number."

Steve Gaines is still at it, still preaching his tithing nonsense to church goers. This time he tried to sell it to Johnny Hunt's church members at First Baptist Church Woodstock on July 31, 2011, while Johnny Hunt was out of town on his annual summer sabbatical.

The lies and misrepresentations put forth by Gaines on this topic are absolutely breath-taking. In this short clip he does the following:

- mocks those who can't afford to tithe in these tough economic times, inferring that God does not understand or have mercy when a person suffers hardship and can't fork over 10% to their church;

- implies that a person who doesn't tithe is probably not a true believer, asking how a person can say they trust God with their soul, but they don't trust God with 10% of their income;

- said that tithing is "New Testament", and misused scripture by saying "Jesus said to do 'it' in Matthew 23:23". Not true. Jesus did not tell Christians they have to tithe in Matthew 23:23. But I'm sure Steve has been in touch with Jesus and knows Jesus meant to say that, and probably regrets that He wasn't clear enough on that point. Glad that Steve is speaking up for Jesus.

- said Jesus tithed, else "the Pharisees and Sadducees would have eaten him alive" for not tithing. Again, not true. Jesus was a carpenter, and the Old Testament tithe was for those in agriculture and who raised livestock. But again, Steve must have had a little one-on-one session with Jesus, or he has read some secret manuscripts that say Jesus tithed;

- told Johnny Hunt's church members that if they don't tithe, they shouldn't sing in the choir, or lead in any capacity in the church. Gaines once said that non-tithers shouldn't sing solos in the church: "I don't want to hear 'Betty the bank robber' warbling for Jesus" said Gaines. But at Woodstock he kicks it up a notch...now non-tithers shouldn't even be in the choir. Hard to believe a preacher would put an entry fee or price tag on being able to use one's musical gifts;

- he accused those who don't tithe of being thieves, driving stolen cars bought with money stolen from God. Says they won't get arrested, but "God's got your number"

Gaines is skilled. It is not easy to put that much nonsense and false doctrine in a 2 minute span of a sermon. It takes a real professional like Gaines to pull it off.

Discerning Christians need to consider this question: if these mega church pastors are willing to lie to us about what the bible says concerning our money, what else are they lying to us about to further their own personal agendas? What other doctrines are they selling from the pulpit that are not true?

I do thank Gaines, as his tithing rant from Sunday will serve as a perfect contrast to the final installment of Wade Burleson's sermon we've been looking at. One preacher heaps Old Testament law on the backs of believers, while another preacher dares to teach what the New Testament teaches concerning grace giving. What a contrast it will be.

And I would say if anyone was robbing God Sunday at Woodstock, it might be Gaines himself....ask First Baptist Woodstock how much they had to pay Gaines to come in and preach. My sources tell me a preacher may earn up to $5000 honorarium to preach on a Sunday morning and evening at a mega church.

Steve, perhaps YOU are the God robber, and perhaps God's got YOUR number.

Stop beating the sheep, Steve.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

James Merritt Responds - Bloggers are Lying, Are Probably Not Christians, "Fools" Harming the Cause of Christ

"During the time he was involved in FHTM he found it to be a reputable organization....Pastor Merritt’s integrity is well established through more than 35 years of pastoral ministry. He has never, and would never be a part of an organization that breaks federal law, nor use his ministry for personal financial gain." James Merritt through his spokesman

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky". Bill Clinton, pointing his finger
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James Merritt apparently reads the blogs, and has responded to an email sent by Dave Miller of the SBC Voices blog over the matter of his involvement with the FHTMC multi-level marketing business. I've posted the response at the end of this post.

My purpose in raising this issue on this blog is to warn Christians who might be swayed by the very popular preacher Merritt - or other preachers who are emulating Merritt's behavior - to get involved in a multi-level marketing scheme currently being investigated by several state DOJs. Merritt or someone on his behalf has scrubbed the Internet of the videos that were up for at least 4 months of him pushing this scheme inside the walls of his church. It wasn't until bloggers started posting and criticizing the videos late last week that the videos have suddenly disappeared from the Internet.

Time for another Georgia Baptist resolution against these pesky bloggers who "second guess" pastors and create "disharmony".

Merritt's response below is right out of the mega church pastor playbook of how to respond when caught with your proverbial pants down: you all are lying about me, you didn't ask the questions in a way I prefer, you probably are not Christians for questioning my integrity, and it is YOU who have harmed the cause of Christ, bloggers, for lying about me on the Internet.

Just typical non-answers to the issues raised, and he returns with accusations himself against those who dare shine a light on his actions. If the bloggers are not telling the truth, then why have all the videos been removed? I do have copies of the two Vimeo videos (they were downloadable from Vimeo) - the one of him standing on his church platform telling everyone that FHTMC is "American Enterprise par excellence", and the other a testimonial of him looking straight into the camera explaining that he is involved in FHTMC because he is "looking for a way to increase resources of my own that I can give to extend the Kingdom of God....".

Here are my comments:

- "Pastor Merritt is no longer involved in FHTM. His preaching schedule and church leadership responsibilities take priority." Really? So he WOULD be involved, but doesn't have the time? Then why did he get involved in the first place? And really the question is not why was he involved in it - but why did he host events at his church and why did he personally vouch for the organization from the church platform and on an Internet video that he has since had removed?

- "During the time he was involved in FHTM he found it to be a reputable organization." Strange. I would like to know the timing of the videos he made at his church. The allegations of FHTM being a possible pyramid scheme go back more than a year. So he is saying he was unaware of the allegations against FHTMC when he pushed it in the walls of his church? He said in one of the videos that he's "seen it all" - mentioned Amway and other marketing schemes, and that FHTMC is different from all of those others he has seen over the years. He put himself out there as an expert on the credibility of FHTMCs business model.

- You'll notice in Merritt's response through his "Communications Director" that he has chosen not to respond to blog entries about this because the bloggers have defied Matt 18:15 (sound familiar?), the allegations are untrue, and the bloggers are behaving as unbelievers. He even throws in scripture to call the bloggers fools. Excuse me Mr. Merritt, but what allegations specifically are untrue? That you pushed FHTMC inside the walls of your church? That it is a suspected pyramid scheme? That you sought riches from this scheme so you could give more to Jesus? You take the Caner route here - and accuse those who have dared to raise this issue publicly as being unbelievers. Sir, it is your behavior as a "man of God", a preacher, that is at question.

- "Pastor Merritt’s integrity is well established through more than 35 years of pastoral ministry. He has never, and would never be a part of an organization that breaks federal law, nor use his ministry for personal financial gain." So that is the new standard: whether the organization is breaking federal law. Well, FHTMC is still under investigation by several state DOJs so that remains to be seen. And it is not a rumor that he used his ministry for personal financial gain - he admitted it. He told the FHTMC people on video that he was involved in FHTMC because he was "...looking for a way to increase resources of my own that I can give to extend the Kingdom of God....". James, you said it yourself, you wanted to increase your resources. And you used your fame as a "man of God" and the resources of your church to push FHTMC.

- "We understand Pastor Merritt is among many prominent and respected pastors, authors, educators and theologians who have been the target of these and other rumors, all of which lack credibility, have been put forth in a manner inconsistent with scripture, and without regard for the reputation of the cause of Christ, or scriptural instructions regarding conflict resolution." Unbelievable! What rumors? And he says that they have been put forth in a manner inconsistent with scripture. Typical mega church pastor babble - he doesn't like how the information comes out, and he blames those who shone a light on his actions as being the ones who harm the reputation of Christ. No, sir, it is your actions, your decision to push a multi-level marketing scheme in the walls of your church, and to allow FHTMC to post videos of you on the Internet saying FHTMC was "American Enterprise par excellence" that has brought shame to the cause of Christ - and potential harm to Christians who followed your advice.

But we do thank you, James Merritt, for at least responding. But your response doesn't address the following questions:

- do you still think that FHTMC is full of integrity, and their business model represents "American Enterprise par excellence"?

- do you still tell believers who come to you for help financially that FHTMC is a source of hope?

- if you are not involved in FHTMC, does that mean you don't earn any income from it, and have totally disassociated with the organization - or does it mean that you are no longer an outspoken proponent of it and won't host any more events at your church?

- who took the videos down of you speaking about FHTMC being "American Enterprise par excellence" in your church? Did you or someone on your behalf seek to remove them and if so why? They were up for more than than 4 months on Vimeo and other host sites.

- why did you decide to host FHTMC in your church? Did you go before your church trustees to seek their approval? Did your church charge them a fee for use of the facilities? Do you regret that? Would you recommend that other pastors follow your lead and host multi-level marketing events as a means to help members who are suffering financially?

Just a few lingering questions from us "fools" who are behaving as non-Christians.

The answers to these questions matters, because you, James Merritt, are a pastor that so many other pastors look up to. As reported in the news media pastors all over the country are pushing FHTMC as you did. You need to be very clear, James, because of your influence - should pastors do what you did, or should they not?
---------------------------------

Below is the response from James Merritt's "Communications Director", posted at SBC Voices
"Thanks for your inquiry. Pastor Merritt is no longer involved in FHTM. His preaching schedule and church leadership responsibilities take priority. During the time he was involved in FHTM he found it to be a reputable organization. Pastor Merritt has chosen not to respond to blog entries he recently was made aware of because (1) the authors have already defied Matthew 18:15; (2) the allegations are patently untrue and unfounded and (3) considering the source, it would unwise to respond to someone acting as an unbeliever. As Solomon warned, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him yourself” (Prov 26:4).

Pastor Merritt’s integrity is well established through more than 35 years of pastoral ministry. He has never, and would never be a part of an organization that breaks federal law, nor use his ministry for personal financial gain. We understand Pastor Merritt is among many prominent and respected pastors, authors, educators and theologians who have been the target of these and other rumors, all of which lack credibility, have been put forth in a manner inconsistent with scripture, and without regard for the reputation of the cause of Christ, or scriptural instructions regarding conflict resolution.

Of the many that attend Cross Pointe Church and the tiny audience that has glanced at these rumors, you are one of only two individuals who have approached Pastor Merritt directly. No other respected target we know of has dignified these rumors with a response, but your direct inquiry was Christ-honoring, and so Pastor Merritt has elected to respond to you. This will be his only public statement regarding these false rumors.

Grace to you,

Gene Mason,
Communications Director
Cross Pointe Church"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Christian, You are Free, a Willing Bond Slave



In the third installment looking at Wade Burleson's January 2, 2011 sermon on Jesus being our Jubilee, Wade answers the question of what a Christian's response is to being set totally free from servitude to God.

In the final installment later this week, Wade gives an application of this concept of freedom in Christ to the tithe. While some pastors seek to make us slaves by placing a requirement on Christians to give 10% as a threshold of obedience - we are free to give generously as we have been blessed, not under compulsion. We are bond slaves in the New Covenant, not slaves under the Old.

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Part 1: "Christian, Jesus is Your Jubilee, and You Can Rest" - July 21, 2011
Part 2: "Christian, You have Been Released from Servitude to God" - July 27, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

Another James Merritt Plug for Suspected Pyramid Scheme: He Says "I'm Looking for a Way to Increase Resources of My Own To Extend Kingdom of God"

Jim Bakker hawked hotel rooms at the Heritage USA.

Peter Popoff marketed miracle spring water.

Robert Tilton peddled prayer cloths.

James Merritt is now pitching a possible pyramid scheme - because he loves Jesus and loves you and cares about you.

Below is another video of Pastor Jim explaining why people should follow his lead and invest in what some states are claiming is an illegal pyramid scheme. In it he admits he is in Fortune HTMC because he is "looking for a way to increase resources of my own that I can give to extend the Kingdom of God...." So he is pushing it for Jesus' sake. Thank you Jesus, for FHTMC, so that Pastor Jim can increase his resources, and tithe on his riches and spread your message of love and hope and get-rich-quick schemes.

Forget the Cooperative Program - why not fund missionaries to Africa and the Middle East to give them "hope" through FHTMC?

Anyone with half-a-brain can see how sick and twisted this is for a man to use his God and his "man of God" status to lead people into a bogus scheme with the hope of getting rich. Sadly, another example of a Baptist preacher seeking riches and hurting the gospel immensely in the process.


But I wonder: maybe James Merritt believes it. Maybe his Ph.D. didn't teach him basic economics and business principles. Maybe he doesn't understand what a pyramid scheme is, or how much trouble he could be in if people believe him and invest and lose their money.

Maybe there is no one that can speak to him and tell him this is wrong.

That would be easier to swallow - the alternative is that he is purposely giving people false hope, when he was ordained to give people true hope in Jesus Christ.

But the burning question that I have: will Merritt be back at FBC Jax again next year as the keynote speaker for the Pastor's Conference? If he is, will he purchase an FBC Jax Pastor's Conference "Promotions Package" so he can hawk FHTMC from the platform of FBC Jax like Holy Land trips were peddled this year?