2 Samuel 16:9,11 - "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head...let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him."

Matthew 7:15 - “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11 - “…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Celebration Church Jacksonville Music Levels Disturbing Neighbors

Here in Jacksonville one of the largest, fastest growing churches is Celebration Church, pastored by Stovall Weems.They recently completed construction on a new main campus facility, what they call "Celebration Arena", shown at left.They are a multi-campus site, with videos of Stovall transmitted to several satellite locations in Jacksonville. This church is our city's version of Elevation Church, and Fellowship Church. Good looking, hip pastor, with loud rock-style music. In fact, Stovall has preached at Fellowship, and Steven Furtick has preached here at Celebration.

As reported by TV-12 News last night, the noise levels coming from the church during their services are so loud as to be a nuisance to the adjoining neighborhood, described by the homeowners as a "retirement"community.

However, from the TV-12 report last night, it seems that the church is not very concerned, and would not even talk to the reporter for her story. Here is an excerpt from the TV report last night:
"Since October, Dave and his wife along with his neighbors say they have sent letters, emails and have made calls to Celebration Church asking for assistance with the noise, but have received only one response that referenced a few pine trees planted as buffers....I [the reporter] called Celebration Church and asked for an interview but was told they would need two weeks notice and passed along contact information."
I visited the church a few Sundays ago to hear Tim Tebow speak at the new Celebration Arena, and I can understand the neighbors' concerns. As I told many people about my visit, the one word I used to describe that church is LOUD. I have never, ever heard music and bass levels as high as in that church. The music was so loud, I felt like my inner organs were vibrating! I've been to my share of rock concerts back in the day, and nothing was as loud and deep as the music being played at the church. As I walked in, I noticed the "fog" in the air to give the arena a nightclub feel. The "arena" is beautiful - huge back screen, HD side screens, comfortable chairs - and one heckuva sound system.

Hopefully Celebration Church will do more than just point to the pine trees, and will do something real to alleviate the concerns of Dave and his neighbors. In the TV piece last night, Dave says he is a man of faith and he felt guilty about raising the issue given that the noise is coming from a church, but he and his neighbors believe their quality of life is diminished by the noise levels on Sunday and Wednesdays. Celebration certainly CAN turn the music down, or provide some other engineering modifications to reduce the noise emanating from the property.

It is quite interesting that while this issue is going on, our city council is addressing citizens' complaints about noise coming from Metro Park rock concerts downtown. So Celebration, please be proactive and address this. If our city council is concerned about noise coming from city-owned property on a few weekends a year, certainly YOU can address the noise concerns from your own church every Sunday and Wednesday.

And for goodness sake, Celebration Church, please talk to the reporter. Why do you need two weeks to prepare to speak to a news reporter working for our largest TV news station in Jacksonville?

Friday, April 5, 2013

"Hey Haters" - An Analysis of Steven Furtick's Volunteer Confidentiality Agreement - Don't Criticize, or You Agree to a Restraining Order

"I acknowledge that my breach of any of the restrictive covenants in this Agreement will result in irreparable damage to the Church. Therefore, in the event of any breach or threatened breach by me, I agree that the Church shall be entitled to an injunction from a court of competent jurisdiction enjoining me from committing any violation or threatened violation of this Agreement. I further agree that the Church shall not be required to post a bond to obtain such an injunction. All remedies available to the Church by reason of a breach by me of this Agreement are cumulative, none is exclusive, and all remedies may be exercised concurrently or consecutively at the Church’s option."  Concluding paragraph of contract volunteers must sign at Steven Furtick's church.
Note from the WD:  I don't ordinarily write such long posts, but I wanted to write this post for the benefit of Elevation Church members so they know what great peril they are in if they sign the document about which this article is written.
Hey Haters!!!  Steven "Hey Haters" Furtick and his Elevation Church have taken us to a new low in church manipulation:  Furtick's church volunteers must agree not to disclose any information about the church pertaining to finances, member contact information, and "church research and development activities" (church "R and D"? Are you kidding me?) - or the church may seek a restraining order issued by a judge to prevent you from talking about the church.

Thanks to the Wartburg Watch post last night, this brazen attempt at manipulation of their members by Elevation Church is now out in the open for all to see - click here to take a gander at the actual agreement. This document's exposure on the blogosphere hopefully will be another example of a church thinking they will abusively squelch dissent behind the scenes with no one knowing; not realizing their attempts may backfire when light is shone on their scheme (by us "haters"), giving people a glimpse of just how rotten and full of themselves the leadership is.

This goes well beyond just manipulation of members. By asking volunteers to sign this document puts well-meaning members of Elevation Church at great legal peril. If the church perceives a member is violating any terms of this document by publicly criticizing the church over finances - or even publicly disclosing abuse within the walls of the church - the church will consider them to have done "irreparable damage" to "the Church", and the church will seek a court injunction against the member.

Members of Elevation Church who might sign this or have already signed this agreement, I cannot urge you strongly enough: do NOT sign this, and if you have, send in writing a request rescinding your agreement to all terms of the agreement.

Members, do you know what this means when you sign this document and thereby agree that Furtick's church "shall be entitled to an injunction" against you? This means if Furtick and Friends believe you've talked bad about the church, or shared financial information about the church - or even raised allegations of abuse in the church rightly or wrongly - you have agreed that the church is entitled to have a judge issue a restraining order against you to silence you. And if you breach this restraining order and don't comply, you will be held in contempt of court.

The church can go to a judge with this document, and will show it and say that this member agreed NOT to release "confidential information", and make the case to the judge that you AGREED to have the judge issue a restraining order against you. Then if you violate it, you can be arrested for being in contempt of court.

Below are three arguments explaining why this is dangerous for you to sign this document, and how signing this document may require you at some point to violate your own Christian teachings and principles or be in great legal jeopardy - and how this is all designed to silence the "haters" - that is people who publicly criticize pastors like Steven Furtick.:

Getting an Injunction from a Judge Against You
This document is basically saying if the church believes you are disclosing information that THEY think is harmful to the church, that YOU agree to have a judge issue an injunction - which really is a temporary restraining order to stop you from doing what they perceive to be harmful to them. And it is not just that you HAVE disclosed information harmful to them, but if they BELIEVE YOU WILL IN THE FUTURE.

For example, if you are found to criticize the church publicly, say on a blog or Facebook like Chris Tynes did at Prestonwood - for any reason you deem worthy of criticism - Furtick and friends they may then believe you will disclose other "confidential information" like financial information such as salaries or budgets or future plans of the church.  They may also assume that you will use your contacts at the church to spread your "gossip". They will then go to the judge and show the judge that you agreed to have the restraining order issued against you to silence you against further spread of "confidential information".

Notice the agreement does define what is "confidential information" that you are not to share, but their definition includes the "...but is not limited to" phase - so basically confidential information would mean any non-publicly available information they think would be harmful. This could be information at a business meeting, a personal conversation you have with another member or pastor, etc.

If you contest this restraining order because you don't want to have a judge order you to be silent, then you will have to hire a lawyer and go to a hearing in a court to argue your side.

If you lose and the restraining order is issued and you don't comply with the judge's restraining order as a matter of conscience, you may be held in contempt of court and arrested and imprisoned.

Sounds so much like the New Testament church in Acts, doesn't it? This is a complete reversal of New Testament church activity: instead of Christians being persecuted for speaking the truth, the church (Furtick's church) is now attempting to be the persecutor of believers who may in the future dare to speak the truth about their church.

Church Disagreements or Church Abuse
Suppose you believe the church is acting abusively toward someone and you have made every attempt to raise the issue with church leadership privately to no avail- or if you fear going to them privately  - and you attempt to blog about what is going on in the church to warn others. Or maybe you just have a disagreement over how money is spent or even a theological disagreement.

If the information you share is "confidential" as in not publicly available - then they can go to the court and argue for an injunction that you agreed to when you signed the agreement.

Notice that the agreement states about the injunction:
"I further agree that the Church shall not be required to post a bond to obtain such an injunction."
Under normal circumstances a party seeking a judge to issue an injunction or restraining order to have someone stop doing something deemed harmful to the plaintiff, the plaintiff must put up a "bond" of some value in case the injunction is found to have been wrongly issued and brings harms to the defendant!  Makes perfect sense to keep organizations from seeking injunctions left and right. But the church is attempting to make this so one-sided that they don't want to have to put up their precious money to back up their claim that you are harming them. Who does such crap, and ask people who are offering to volunteer their time to agree to it?

Has any employer - let alone a non-profit for which you are trying to volunteer your time - asked you to sign such one-sided legal nonsense? What are they afraid of? What is so precious and secret over at Elevation Church that they must ask all employees and volunteers to sign this?

I can tell you: this is the sign of a cult. They are trying to silence you and intimidate you from publicly criticizing them. It is no secret how much Furtick and friends despise the "haters" who criticize their God-anointed efforts to save the world.

Give as Little Information as Possible

Elevation members, this might be the worst part, where they do tell you that you are allowed to disclose information about the church if required by law. 
"However, this provision shall not preclude me...from any disclosure required by law or court order, so long as I provide the Church immediate written notice of any potential disclosure pursuant to this subsection and take all reasonable and lawful steps to limit the extent of such disclosure."
 "Gee, thanks Steven, I'm glad you are allowing me the freedom to tell the truth to the police and other law authorities if I'm questioned about the church!!"

But look at that statement. They are requiring employees and volunteers to provide written notification of any "potential disclosure" when required by law or court order!  Are you kidding? I have to FIRST tell the church before I talk to the authorities? What rubbish!!

And why must I take "all reasonable and lawful steps to limit the extent of such disclosure?"

That is just crazy. Imagine there is an investigation of child abuse at the church, and a detective wants to interview you about it. By law, you must tell the truth to the detective. But are you first to notify Steven and friends before disclosing confidential information? And why must you limit the extent of the disclosure?

Anyways, this story is just another example of how these mega churches are too big for their britches. They want total devotion by the members, they want 10% minimum of your income (or God will curse you), and they want you to limit the disclosure of any information that might cast the organization in a negative light. They want you to sign a document forfeiting your legal rights to publicly criticize them. They want you to believe they are the single most important organization on the face of the earth, the one that is truly doing God's will. They require the head man to be viewed as being "the man of God" sent by God, appointed by God, and anointed by God, to tell you what the holy book says. They require you to admit that disclosure of information about what is going on within the organization regarding finances and strategy plans is to cause irreparable damage to the organization.

That my friends, is the stuff cults are made out of.....but even David Koresh and James Jones weren't so stupid as to put it all in writing and make people sign it. This is not a Confidentiality Agreement - it is more of a "Drink the Kool Aid Commitment" that I hope no volunteer will ever sign.

I've talked to a lawyer about this agreement, and he says it wouldn't likely stand up in court anyways. It is just an attempt to chill free speech. The church wants its members to know they have given their rights to talk freely over to their church, plain and simple.

So Elevation members, throw put this confidentiality agreement where it belongs - in the trash can. Tell them to run their background check on you, but that you will sign no such confidentiality agreement. You are signing up to volunteer your precious hours to your church, not guard America's nuclear launch codes. And Elevation employees who must sign this as a condition to maintain your employment, I feel sorry for you. In the real world, no one would ever ask you to sign something so one-sided as a condition for employment.

And watch Steven's "Hey Hater's" performance one more time, and you'll see the heart from which such a document is spawned:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

SBC Prez Luter Says Latest North Korean Aggression Might be God's Judgment Over Gay Marriage Issue

"I would not be surprised that there's not a connection there....I would not be surprised that at a time when we are debating same sex marriage...I don't think its just a coincidence that there's a mad man in Asia who's saying some of the things he's saying." Fred Luter, linking North Korea's aggressive military posture to the debate of same sex marriage.
No, this is not the April Fool's post. I wish it were.

Fred Luter, president of the SBC, said in an interview last week that perhaps one of the reasons North Korea is now ramping up their nuclear program is because God is judging America for the U.S. Supreme Court debating the issue of gay marriage.

Listen to the radio interview excerpt below. It is shocking. Rick Wiles asks Luter if North Korea's renewed military aggression is God "unleashing" punishment on us. This is the level of nonsense that is driving young people away from Christianity, when they hear a prominent Christian leader like Fred Luter insinuate that God is judging the United States over the issue of gay marriage.

There are plenty of reasons why a person might be in support of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Amendment. But to take two events that are completely separate and distinct and link them into a cause and effect relationship using the "judgment of God" hurts the right's cause.  And it is why non-Christians actually FEAR evangelicals - our "men of God" think we're so stupid as to believe God is judging us because this week our Supreme Court happens to be considering the issue of gay marriage.

So come on, Christians - let's save America from North Korean aggression by opposing same-sex marriage - and be sure to tithe this week to stop homosexuality from spreading.

And if the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA - everybody head for the bomb shelters.