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Be Alert!

Moriel Ministries Be Alert! has added this Blog as a resource for further information, links and research to help keep you above the global deception blinding the world and most of the church in these last days. Jesus our Messiah is indeed coming soon and this should only be cause for joy unless you have not surrendered to Him. Today is the day for salvation! For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, - Psalms 95:7

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Shocking “Confession” from Willow Creek Community Church

The Falling Away CROSSWALK [Salem Communications Corporation] - By Bob Burney - October 30, 2007 If you are older than 40 the name Benjamin Spock is more than familiar. It was Spock that told an entire generation of parents to take it easy, don’t discipline your children and allow them to express themselves. Discipline, he told us, would warp a child’s fragile ego. Millions followed this guru of child development and he remained unchallenged among child rearing professionals. However, before his death Dr. Spock made an amazing discovery: he was wrong. In fact, he said: We have reared a generation of brats. Parents aren't firm enough with their children for fear of losing their love or incurring their resentment. This is a cruel deprivation that we professionals have imposed on mothers and fathers. Of course, we did it with the best of intentions. We didn't realize until it was too late how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self assurance of parents. Oops. Something just as momentous, in my opinion, just happened in the evangelical community. For most of a generation evangelicals have been romanced by the “seeker sensitive” movement spawned by Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. The guru of this movement is Bill Hybels. He and others have been telling us for decades to throw out everything we have previously thought and been taught about church growth and replace it with a new paradigm, a new way to do ministry. Perhaps inadvertently, with this “new wave” of ministry came a de-emphasis on taking personal responsibility for Bible study combined with an emphasis on felt-needs based “programs” and slick marketing. The size of the crowd rather than the depth of the heart determined success. If the crowd was large then surely God was blessing the ministry. Churches were built by demographic studies, professional strategists, marketing research, meeting “felt needs” and sermons consistent with these techniques. We were told that preaching was out, relevance was in. Doctrine didn’t matter nearly as much as innovation. If it wasn’t “cutting edge” and consumer friendly it was doomed. The mention of sin, salvation and sanctification were taboo and replaced by Starbucks, strategy and sensitivity. Thousands of pastors hung on every word that emanated from the lips of the church growth experts. Satellite seminars were packed with hungry church leaders learning the latest way to “do church.” The promise was clear: thousands of people and millions of dollars couldn’t be wrong. Forget what people need, give them what they want. How can you argue with the numbers? If you dared to challenge the “experts” you were immediately labeled as a “traditionalist,” a throwback to the 50s, a stubborn dinosaur unwilling to change with the times. All that changed recently. Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder: it seems that the “experts” were wrong. The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments: Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for. If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker sensitive” model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states: We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own. Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth. Just as Spock’s “mistake” was no minor error, so the error of the seeker sensitive movement is monumental in its scope. The foundation of thousands of American churches is now discovered to be mere sand. The one individual who has had perhaps the greatest influence on the American church in our generation has now admitted his philosophy of ministry, in large part, was a “mistake.” The extent of this error defies measurement. Perhaps the most shocking thing of all in this revelation coming out of Willow Creek is in a summary statement by Greg Hawkins: Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet. Isn’t that what we were told when this whole seeker-sensitive thing started? The church growth gurus again want to throw away their old assumptions and “take out a clean sheet of paper” and, presumably, come up with a new paradigm for ministry. Should this be encouraging? Please note that “rooted in Scripture” still follows “rethink,” “new insights” and “informed research.” Someone, it appears, still might not get it. Unless there is a return to simple biblical (and relevant) principles, a new faulty scheme will replace the existing one and another generation will follow along as the latest piper plays. What we should find encouraging, at least, in this “confession” coming from the highest ranks of the Willow Creek Association is that they are coming to realize that their existing “model” does not help people grow into mature followers of Jesus Christ. Given the massive influence this organization has on the American church today, let us pray that God would be pleased to put structures in place at Willow Creek that foster not mere numeric growth, but growth in grace. http://www.crosswalk.com/news/commentary/11558438/page2/ FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Rick Warren: 'I always own up to mistakes'

The Falling Away - False Teachers - Evangelicals Riding the Beast 'Purpose-driven' megachurch pastor answers evangelical critics EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a three-part series based on an interview with Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church in Southern California, which he and his wife of 30 years, Kay, founded in 1980 with one family. In part one, Warren responds to critics among his fellow evangelical travelers. In part two, published tomorrow, the senior pastor – called by Newsweek one of "15 People Who Make America Great" – discusses how he handles fame, his unconventional approach to ministry and his visit last year with Syrian leader Bashar Assad. In part three, he responds to concerns about the pitfalls of partnering with government and his massive AIDS initiative. WORLDNETDAILY - By Art Moore - December 11, 2007 LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Widely regarded by mainstream media as one of America's most influential leaders, he's met with dictators, apologized to Muslims on behalf of Christianity, accepted blame for global warming and invited pro-choice politicians to speak at his Southern California megachurch. All of that, and more, raises red flags with a sizeable number of evangelicals who share the traditional theological and social views of Rick Warren's Southern Baptist roots. The blue jeans-clad pastor of 22,000-strong Saddleback Church in Orange County says that with guidance from Billy Graham, he has intentionally tried to avoid engaging his critics. But on the heels of an appearance by Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton at his church's conference on AIDS, he welcomed the opportunity to sit down and talk with WND. Obvious to anyone who visits the 120-acre resort-style campus of Saddleback Church and begins to grasp the scope of its worldwide ministry, Warren is a grand visionary, with a coalition of congregations in 167 countries, training of more than 500,000 ministers, 2,800 home groups and 7,500 sent on missions teams in the past three years – not to mention a global "P.E.A.C.E. plan. And he admitted he often has been willing to overlook details in which some find the devil. The 53-year-old author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," the best-selling hardback book of all time, also confesses to impulsiveness, which sometimes has led to trouble. "Without a doubt," he told WND. "I make mistakes all the time." But he added, "I always own up to mistakes that I actually do. I just won't own up to mistakes that weren't really a mistake." Many false claims, he contended, have taken on a life of their own on Internet blogs, such as assertions he was mentored by positive-thinking pastor Robert Schuller and influenced by Norman Vincent Peale. The claims often are tied to criticism he's preaching a watered-down, pop-psychology gospel of self-esteem and "easy believism." "I've only met Robert Schuller twice, I believe. I've never had a one-on-one conversation with him. Not once. So how do I even know him?" Warren said, adding he's never even read a book by Peale. Small groups and intensive discipleship are the heart of Saddleback, he argued, with weekends oriented toward reaching the unchurched. But he, nevertheless, insists his preaching regularly focuses on weighty subjects, such as sanctification, noting, as one example, he took two and a half years to teach through the book of Romans. "People don't know this," he said. "They think I'm teaching on stress every week." Ultimately, the fourth-generation pastor – whose great-grandfather was converted under legendary evangelist Charles Spurgeon – says there is one simple truth that best explains his often unconventional approach to ministry and frequent ventures into controversial relationships and associations. "People don't understand that I am fundamentally, foremost an evangelist," he told WND. "It's what I care about. I don't care about politics, I don't care about political correctness, I don't care about what established groups want me to do. I care about getting people into heaven." Pointing to his baptism last weekend of a founder of the radical homosexual-rights group ACT UP, Warren explained he is "trying to build bridges of love to different groups of people so that Jesus Christ can walk across into their life." "I'm willing to put up with the misunderstanding. I'm willing to have people go, 'Ohh, he's such a politically naive guy.' Or, he's a pawn to be used," Warren said. He paraphrased Graham – himself the frequent target of criticism for his political forays – who often has said, "People may think you're being used, but I'm using the gospel, getting the gospel out." Warren, recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of "America's Top 25 Leaders," has taken advantage of opportunities to speak at influential venues such as the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Council on Foreign Relations, African Union and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Ultimately, he argues his motivation can be found in the teachings of Jesus, who said, "I'm to love my enemies. That means I'm to love people who are totally opposed to me." Loving your enemies But many of his fellow evangelicals argue the best way to love enemies is to graciously confront them with the truth. Last month, Warren drew some fire for signing a dialogue-seeking letter in which Christian theologians and ministers responded to an initiative by 138 Muslim leaders by apologizing for the medieval Crusades and "excesses in the war on terror." Asked specifically which excesses he had in mind, Warren replied: "Ahhh, you know what … I have no idea," he said. "Because I didn't sign it sentence-by-sentence." Similar to his endorsement of an initiative acknowledging man-made global warming, Warren said, "There might have been statements there I didn't agree with, but generally I'm saying, I think it's a good idea to get people talking." "It comes back to," he said, referring to the letter to Muslims, "I am a pastor, not a politician. And what I've learned is that, in marriage if I'm trying to keep a divorce from happening … I've found as long as I can get the husband and wife talking, they're not going to divorce. The moment the talking stops the divorce is inevitable." Warren insisted he's "not a Pollyanna, thinking getting different interfaith groups together is going to bring world peace." "We know that isn't going to happen," he said. "It just isn't going to happen. That's not what the Scripture says." All religions are not alike, he emphasized, and one can't be a Christian and adhere to any other faith. But he argued, "There's a difference between compromise and civility." As long as I'm talking with my enemy, Warren said, "he's not sending a bomb my way. "Don't think that you're going to bring in the kingdom with dialogue, you're not going to do it," he clarified. "It isn't going to happen. But it can keep things from escalating." He interjected that this approach has led to productive discussions with prominent political and religious leaders in the Muslim world. "What I don't talk about publicly is the talks with people who call me behind the scenes," he said. "On the other hand – it's going to sound like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth, but I'm not, I believe this – the Bible says evil has to be opposed. Evil has to be stopped," Warren continued. "The Bible does not say negotiate with evil. It says stop it. Stop evil. Hitler could not be negotiated with. And there are some people you cannot negotiate with." Warren argued there are many different kinds of Muslims in the world, and he's met a sampling, from those "who wanted to cut my throat" to those who feel "like a brother." "Al-Qaida no more represents Islam than the Ku Klux Klan represents Christianity," he contended. "Actually, if you study the background of al-Qaida, they were influenced by the same people who influenced Hitler. It was a lot of secular writers and Nietzsche and nihilists and stuff like that." Many of his critics take exception to that inference about Islam and further argue that agreeing to "excesses" in the war on terror and apologizing for the Crusades actually reinforces al-Qaida and other movements that use the claims as pretexts for their global jihad. "Well, I understand that argument," Warren said. "I disagree with it, because I'm not about to defend something that wasn't Christianity. And the Crusades weren't Christianity. Not as I see it. Then why apologize? "I do apologize, because I apologize for anything done in the name of Christ, that Jesus would disavow," he said. "I think Jesus would have disavowed the Crusades. Because the Crusades were largely about territorial land and not even about a personal relationship with Christ." Critics also argue the Crusades were a defensive response to Islamic jihad, and today Muslims are the aggressors in most of the world's hot spots. Muslims aren't apologizing for this, yet the letter to the Islamic leaders essentially puts Christians in the position of taking the blame. "I'm not interested in what the radicals will do with that statement," Warren said. "I'm interested in what the far-more majority of moderates will do with it, and say, Hey, maybe we should listen to this guy Rick Warren." I'm sorry Warren said apologies actually are an important part of his evangelism strategy, noting how the approach can disarm antagonism. He pointed to one of the speakers at Saddleback's AIDS conference, David Miller, a founder of ACT UP, who he "led to Christ, simply because I started with an apology." Two years ago, at the first "Global Summit on AIDS and the Church," Warren recalls Miller came up to him "spittin' nails." "He was so angry, he was ready to knock my head off," said Warren, who remembered Miller telling him he had always hated the Christian church. "Now, I could have been defensive back, but I said, 'David, I'm sorry, I want to apologize to you for any meanness that's been said to you in the name of Christ,'" Warren said. "And it was like I punched him in the gut," Warren continued. "You could have knocked the wind out of his sails. Like I just popped the balloon. And then, here, two years later, after this relationship, I'm going to baptize him." Not about the debate On global warming, Warren said he didn't endorse the "Evangelical Climate Initiative," as others did, to assert humans are causing it. "I don't even care about that debate so much as I care that Christians should be at the forefront of taking care of the planet," he said. "And actually, you tell me which side you want to be on, and I'll tell you which reports to read. OK. I can show you noted scientists who tell you we are near disaster, and I can show you noted scientists you say there is no problem at all." Warren said he does not support the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement rejected by the U.S. requiring radical emission reductions opponents say would destroy economies and harm the poor – "not at all do I agree with it." "I didn't sign on to say, I believe all things that the radical environmentalists believe. Not at all," he said. "I just thought Christians ought to be saying, We care about the planet too." Christians, he said, should be leading the move to take care of the Earth "with biblical principles, not political principles. And a lot of people are making this a bouncing ball right now. "I think a lot of people read into my signature on that that I bought into everything that's out there," he said. "I certainly don't. I don't at all. Blogs copy blogs Warren contended some criticism is simply baseless, charging many "don't do their due diligence on research." The Robert Schuller "mentorship," for example, likely originated with a statement the Crystal Cathedral pastor made on CNN's "Larry King Live," he said. But Warren insisted he's met Schuller only a couple of times and never had a one-on-one conversation with him. The claim, he said, was furthered by author George Mair in a biography called "A Life with Purpose" then spread like wildfire among Internet blogs. "In the first place, this guy is not even a Christian, never talked to me, never talked to any staff member, never talked to any member of my family, and in the book claimed that he did," Warren said. "He flat-out lied." Warren pointed out Mair is also the author of celebrity tomes such as "Paris Hilton: The Naked Truth" and "Oprah Winfrey: The Real Story." "What he does is he finds, quote, celebrities, and churns out a quick book," Warren said. The book was rife with errors from secondary sources, including the wrong number of children and wrong hometown, Warren argued. "He said my model was Norman Vincent Peale. I've never met Norman Vincent Peale. I've never even read a book written by Norman Vincent Peale," said Warren. "A lot of Christians then took and read that stuff, reported it on a blog, blogs copy blogs copy blogs copy blogs. And it's kind of like spreading a feather pillow, you can't get all the feathers back." Warren said he has discussed with Billy Graham how to handle criticism. "The general policy is, as much as possible, you don't respond," he said. "And so, I have to live with a lot of misconceptions about the thing with Schuller." http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=59110 FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Rick Warren: 'I never wanted fame'

The Falling Away - False Teachers - Evangelicals Riding the Beast But pastor with global vision says he 'loves making an influence' EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of a three-part series based on an interview with Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church in Southern California, which he and his wife of 30 years, Kay, founded in 1980 with one family. In part one, Warren responded to critics among his fellows evangelical travelers. In part two the senior pastor – called by Newsweek one of "15 People Who Make America Great" – discusses how he handles fame, his unconventional approach to ministry and his visit last year with Syrian leader Bashar Assad. In part three, he responds to concerns about the pitfalls of partnering with government and his massive AIDS initiative. WORLDNETDAILY - By Art Moore - December 12, 2007 LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Rick Warren says he never wanted fame or celebrity, but when murder, bewilderment and grief engulfed a missionary base and church in Colorado this week, national media looked to the Southern California megachurch pastor to help make sense of it. Whether or not there is such a thing as "America's pastor" or an "evangelical spokesman," the man called by Newsweek one of "15 People Who Make America Great" fits the bill for many mainstream journalists. "I hate fame, but I love making an influence," Warren told WND. "So you put up with some stuff." Some of that "stuff" is the criticism he receives from fellow evangelicals who accuse him, among many things, of preaching a watered-down gospel and appeasing dictators, Muslims, academic elites and left-leaning politicians. In part one of an interview with WND at his Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, Warren said many of his critics "don't understand that I am fundamentally, foremost an evangelist." "It's what I care about. I don't care about politics, I don't care about political correctness, I don't care about what established groups want me to do," he said. "I care about getting people into heaven." Warren emphasized he never sought to lead a movement. "All I wanted to do was pastor my church for life," he said. " … So nobody is more surprised at where I've been. And these things that crack me up in the magazines – it's laughable to my kids. Children and grandchildren "keep your feet to the floor," he said. "Everybody should mow their own lawn, change diapers, wash dishes, like I do. I don't have any maids, don't have any servants. You know, you just keep your head on the ground." Warren said that when people ask him how he keeps his focus amid the temptations that come with power, he asks them to "pray that I'll have integrity, humility and generosity." They are the "antedotes to the three traps that leaders typically fall into," he said, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life – or "passion, possession and position." After the windfall from sales of his books – "The Purpose-Driven Life" is regarded as the best-selling hardback of all time – Warren dropped his salary and paid the church back for 25 years of wages. He and his wife, Kay, give a "reverse tithe" of 90 percent of their income and live on 10 percent. But with 22,000 filling the 120-acre Saddleback campus on weekends, ministries in 167 countries and a global "P.E.A.C.E. plan that aims to conquer the world's five biggest problems, he's aware of being perceived as an "empire builder." "If I wanted a big name I would have gone on TV," he said, arguing Saddleback "may be the only church of the 10 largest in the country that doesn't televise its services." When Saddleback was founded in 1980 with just seven people, he "didn't want to turn the church into a studio." "I don't want to be a celebrity," Warren said. "And on top of that, if I put my sermons on television, I compete with other churches, I don't help them." Warren explained he's a fourth-generation pastor, following his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, who came to faith in Jesus Christ under legendary British evangelist Charles Spurgeon. A brother, uncle and brother-in-law also are pastors. "So I love pastors, and the pastors I care about the most are not the megachurch pastors," he said. "It's the real pastor. The guy in a 75-member church … the kind of church I grew up in all my life. If you open up 'The Purpose-Driven Church' book, you see it's dedicated to bi-vocational pastors." The "heroes," he said, are the guys "out there flipping burgers during the week or getting a car mechanic shop in order to put food on the table and then trying to feed spiritual sheep on the weekend." With that in mind, he said, instead of going on TV, he decided to put his sermons on the Internet in 1992, prior to the advent of Netscape and Explorer. Since then, hundreds of thousands of pastors have downloaded Saddleback sermons from around the world. "I help these guys who have no Bibles, many times, no books," Warren said. "They have no college education, no high school education and no seminary education. So they're getting my material and it's a simple format. They go, 'I can teach this.' And I've had guys around the world tell me, 'Rick, you're the only training I've ever had.'" More than 500,000 ministers have been trained worldwide by Saddleback. A similar intensive discipleship process, he said, is applied to 2,800 small groups that meet in homes in a 100-mile swath that touches every city in Southern California, from Malibu in the north to Carlsbad in the south. Based on a biblical model, he said, more than 7,500 church members have been sent out on mission teams in the past three years, with a goal to commission 10,000 more by the end of 2010. The teams, he believes, are evidence that Saddleback's approach is bearing fruit. "How do you get people so mature that they will go to the mission field on their own and pay their own money and all that?" he asked. "It takes years of discipleship, years of maturity." What we're all about Warren said the biggest misunderstanding about Saddleback Church and his ministry is that what happens on Sunday morning is the main thing. Many learn about Saddleback from secular journalists, he said, who assume the big crowd on weekends is "what we're all about." But the thousands who come Saturday and Sunday are just a "funnel," he said, to small-group ministry. Warren said his aim was to create something inexpensive and reproducible – evangelism-oriented meetings that would draw the unchurched. The current goal, he said, "is to reach 10,000 more people for Christ in the next 40 months here by the end of 2010." "A crowd is not a church," he said. "A crowd can be turned into a church, and you have to have a big crowd to get a big church. But a crowd is not a church. So we don't kid ourselves." Many large churches, he said, "spend all their time and all their money and all their energy on enormous props and videos." "We don't do that at all," he said. "We don't do skits. We have testimonies on Sunday morning." Nevertheless, the sermons are not light fare, Warren insisted. "I did a 12-week series on the doctrine of grace. I've done series on the incarnation. I've done series on sanctification," he said. "I've done series on the fruit of the Spirit, through books of the Bible. I once taught through the book of Romans. It took me two and a half years. "But even when I'm doing those, I relate it in a way that people who have no background could understand it," he explained. "'Oh, I get that. I'm not a believer, but I get that. It makes sense.'" He also pointed out Saddleback practices church discipline. "People have gotten kicked out of this church because they didn't pay their bills, because they maligned other people, because they didn't live a life of holiness," he said. "These are things that nobody even knows," said Warren. "(They say) if you're big, you must be shallow, you must be superficial; and actually, we have this discipleship process where we're moving people." A great church, he asserted, cannot be built quickly. "If you ever see a church that grows really fast, it means it's transfer growth," he said. "It means, 'What's the hot act in town, let's all go over there.' And it's not really growth, it's swelling. It's trading fish from aquarium to aquarium, instead of fishing for men." Saddleback's size is for one simple purpose, Warren said: "We grow bigger because people need the Lord … we grow because people without Christ go to hell." All things to all men Warren said if his critics would know he is mostly "about getting people into heaven," they would understand why, for example, he was willing to go to Syria one year ago and meet with its terrorist-supporting leader, Bashar Assad. "I did not go to Syria for political purposes. Not at all," he said. "I went for one reason, will they let me do the P.E.A.C.E. plan in Syria? Can I build enough of a bridge so I will not be persecuted by doing the P.E.A.C.E. plan, and can I help the Christians there?" P.E.A.C.E. is an acronym for "Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation." It calls for "church-based small groups to adopt villages where spiritual emptiness, selfish leadership, poverty, disease, and ignorance keep people from experiencing the kind of life God wants them to have." The fundamental reason he is willing to meet with the leaders of rogue states such as North Korea or Iran, he said, is "because Jesus said, 'Go into all the world.' Not into all the politically correct world. But he even said, 'Love your enemies.'" He cited the Apostle Paul, who said, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." "I know people, bloggers, who think that's heresy," he said referring to online critics. "I know people who if I wrote that – and they didn't know it was in the Bible – they would say the guy is a chameleon." Paul, he argued, was not a chameleon, he was being strategic. "Jesus said be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. And what the church is, usually, is harmless as a dove," he said. "A lot of things that are being done today in the name of Christ are very unwise. Rather than opening doors for the Gospel, they are closing doors for the Gospel. They are giving us a black eye." He said, like the Apostle Paul, most of the criticism directed against him is from "the religious people." "It comes from people who are supposed to understand the gospel of grace but don't act very gracious," he said. Warren noted one secular magazine called him "'the evangelical that humanists love,' or some stupid thing like that." That's fine with him, he said, "because I want them to know the savior I know." "My job is not to save America," Warren said. "My job is to save Americans. And my job is not to promote a public policy. My job is to win people to Christ that Jesus died for, whether they live in Iran or Afghanistan or Argentina or wherever." Damascus Road experience Warren insisted the only mistake he made in Syria during his November 2006 visit was that he should not have allowed a photo op at the end of his meeting with Assad. The state news agency issued a report that Warren contended was not accurate. It read: "Pastor Warren hailed the religious coexistence, tolerance and stability that the Syrian society is enjoying due to the wise leadership of President al-Assad, asserting that he will convey the true image about Syria to the American people." Warren also was quoted saying, "Syria wants peace, and Muslims and Christians live in this country jointly and peacefully since more than a thousand years, and this is not new for Syria." But Warren's critics say, regardless of whether the state Syrian report was true, he was captured on a 50-second home video walking down a Damascus road mentioned in the book of Acts, Straight Street, saying Syria is "a moderate country, and the official government rule and position is to not allow any extremism of any kind." In the video, which was briefly posted on YouTube, Warren said, "Syria's a place that has Muslims and Christians living together for 1,400 years. So it's a lot more peaceful, honestly, than a lot of other places, because Christians were here first." Warren argued that when he suggested there was freedom of religion in Syria, he didn't mean everyone had the freedom to convert to Christianity. Christians are "actually meeting above ground, they are not in secret, I've been in their churches," he said. "The problem is we've got to get them moved to the next step, which is the freedom of conversion," he contended. "It's quite different than in many places I've been … I won't mention the countries, but I've been in those countries where you can't even meet above ground," Warren said. "Every time I go to those countries, I have to go in secret." He argued the 2006 Open Doors' World Watch List of countries that persecute Christians ranked Syria a relatively low 47th and notes that before his trip, he consulted the president of Open Doors, a member of his church who used to be on the Saddleback staff. Explaining the context of the home video, Warren said his walk down Straight Street came just after he was granted virtually unprecedented permission by an imam to enter a crypt at Damascus' largest mosque, where an old church is said to hold relics from John the Baptist. The imam, he said, approached him as he prayed with his colleagues and said, "I sense in you you are a man of peace." "My host said, nobody gets in that crypt, residents, kings, muftis, nobody gets in that crypt," Warren recalled. "So I had just had that experience and I walk outside, and I'm walking down the street with a group of pastors and a home video captures me on a video and sees, 'What do you think about freedom of religion?' Well, it's obvious nobody is picking me up right here. I'm walking down the street with a group of pastors, nobody is persecuting us. Now, that did not mean there is the freedom to convert. That's the next step." Warren said the invitation from Assad came after the Syrian leader found out he was in the country. "What am I going to say? No, I'm not going to meet him? I didn't go there to meet him, it wasn't even on the agenda." Warren said there were no photographers there during the meeting with Assad, but film crews were brought in at the end for a photo op. "And then the government agency, of course, put out their pro-Syrian statement, 'Rick Warren thinks we're sliced bread,' you know, that kind of stuff," he recounted. Warren said WND editor and CEO Joseph Farah then wrote an initial column based on information from the Syrian state news story. "I happened to be in Rwanda from there," Warren said. "I wrote Joseph and said, 'Joseph that's just not true. I didn't say those things. You're reading a statement.' And he wrote back in a very accusatory letter that said, 'Well, I can't wait to see the video.' In other words, he didn't believe me. "I didn't lie at all. He didn't stop to check it out," Warren insisted. "And so he then writes six columns on the basis of his assumption. There was no video of that meeting. At the end, they took a picture, so he chose to believe what the government said, instead of believing me." Farah said he stands "by every word I wrote in those columns." "After all this time and all these different explanations, I am 100 percent convinced everything I wrote was accurate," Farah said. http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=59161 FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Rick Warren: AIDS too big for church alone

The Falling Away - False Teachers - Evangelicals Riding the Beast Traditional values challenged in unusual alliance to combat disease Part 3 EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third of a three-part series based on an interview with Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church in Southern California, which he and his wife of 30 years, Kay, founded in 1980 with one family. In part one, Warren responded to critics among his fellows evangelical travelers. In part two the senior pastor – called by Newsweek one of "15 People Who Make America Great" – discussed his fame, his unconventional approach to ministry and his visit last year with Syrian leader Bashar Assad. In part three today, he responds to concerns about the pitfalls of partnering with government and his massive AIDS initiative. WORLDNETDAILY - By Art Moore - December 13, 2007 LAKE FOREST, Calif. – When Rick Warren takes on a problem, the scale often seems limited only by the size of the planet. Five years ago, his wife, Kay, responded to a sobering magazine article about the plight of 12 million AIDS orphans in Africa, and now their 22,000-strong Saddleback Church in upscale Orange County, California, has completed its third annual "Global Summit on AIDS and the Church," drawing figures such as Sen. Hillary Clinton, United Nations officials and President Bush's global AIDS coordinator to unite against the pandemic. Warren says the problem of AIDS, with an estimated 33 million infected with HIV, is too big for the church alone, and he advocates the building of a public, private and faith partnership. The venture has created unusual alliances, underscoring the conflicting approaches to a problem inseparable from issues of sexual morality. While the traditional teaching of Warren's Southern Baptists heritage emphasizes abstinence outside of marriage, governments and other secular institutions generally have adopted what they consider a "pragmatic approach" that refrains from judgment and seeks simply to keep people alive based on the belief that youth inevitably will engage in sexual activity. Speaker Pauline Muchina, senior women and AIDS advocacy officer with UNAIDS in Washington, D.C., told the summit AIDS must be challenged with a "comprehensive" program that includes condom promotion, and she condemned the traditional Christian teaching of male leadership in marriage as a major cause of violence against women. Muchina, a native of Kenya's Rift Valley, told WND, however, she has no problem working with the Warrens. "I only get anxious when [evangelicals] start condemning people who are advocating for a comprehensive HIV prevention including the use of condoms," she said, "and so far, Kay and Rick have both said to me, and to other people here at the conference, we have to have a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy." Asked to respond to Muchina's remarks, Warren told WND he does support condom distribution for prostitutes in impoverished, high-risk AIDS regions such as Africa and India. "I want to keep them alive long enough that I can win them to Christ," he said. "If they're dead, it's too late. The good news is only good news if it gets there in time." Warren said that when his wife came back from a trip to India, she told him of visiting a red light district with an estimated 30,000 prostitutes. Most of the women, he said, were sold into the work by husbands, fathers or brothers. "I've never met a prostitute who wanted to be a prostitute," said Warren. "I'm sure there are some out there, but in all my travels around the world, every one of them said, 'If I could make money in another way, I'd do it.'" Warren said that's why his church started a program in Kenya to teach sewing and haircutting, enabling 16 women to leave prostitution. "It goes back to my fundamental value," he said, "that there is something more important than keeping a rule – it's winning people to Christ." Muchina, however, used the same argument for promoting condom use among unmarried people. "If you want to continue preaching to people to live a different life, you have to keep them alive by giving them skills and adequate information for protecting themselves from HIV," she said. 'My job is to change behavior' Asked if he specifically supported promoting condoms to unmarried people, Warren replied, "My personal thing is I'm not going to give a condom to a kid. I'm not going to do that." He said, however, he can partner with people who do believe that, pointing out, for example, he can work with Catholics who don't even believe in condom use for married couples. "What I try to do is work with people to the degree that I can without compromising my convictions," he said. "As a pastor, my job is to change behavior," Warren emphasized. "Government cannot change behavior. So I don't expect government to agree to my commitments. They're going to go out there and they're going to look for the easiest non-behavior-change ways to slow it. I don't expect them, and I'm not going to spend all my time trying to change them. I'm going to be training pastors how to teach behavior change." Another speaker at the AIDS summit, Mark Dybul, President Bush's global AIDS coordinator, told WND the White House position is that "you need everything" to battle the pandemic. "The most effective methods to avoid HIV/AIDS – our guidance is very clear on this – are to abstain from sexual activity or to be faithful to an HIV-negative partner," Dybul said. "That's 100 percent protection. Correct and consistent condemn use is not a 100 percent protection. But it's a fact that people become sexually active, and so when they do, they need to make sure that they are protecting themselves and protecting others." Dybul explained the Bush administration "works with some groups that have certain views and others have other views, and then, put as a whole, you have the whole picture." "We respect the views and the values of everyone we work with, and we allow them to do what they do, and the success that they have in the populations they reach," he said. "So we have a much broader view that includes all the approaches to tacking HIV/AIDS." Dybul emphasized, however, the goal of an "HIV-free generation" won't be reached "until young people change the way they behave, and that means respecting themselves, respecting others. And when you do that, that means boys don't abuse girls, that means that you refrain from sexual activity until you've found someone you love and are with and you remain faithful to that person. "That's how we are going to tackle this epidemic," Dybul said, "and that's why we need work with the churches, and that's why we need to work with the traditional leaders." UNAIDS' Muchina said it's important that each side in the debate does not condemn the other. "I don't condemn them, they don't condemn us," she said. "We are all working on the same problem but working from different approaches, because this is a huge problem that has to be addressed from all levels." Muchina, nevertheless, found deficiencies in what she viewed as the conventional evangelical response. "You don't just tell them if you're not married don't do it," she told WND. "What about the other side, that sex is a gift from God, and this is how it's supposed to be done, and if you ever find yourself in a compromising situation, this is what you do to protect yourself from getting infected? "That's a moral obligation for us, for churches, for government, for families," she said. "I want my children to be alive." 'Our processes are pretty bureaucratic' At the conference, Kay Warren said her church is urging all of the presidential candidates to expand the Bush administration's $30 million Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. But Rick Warren told WND he's conscious of the control and coercion attached to government money and for that reason accepts no government funding. "We work directly with private donors in the church," he said. "Any time you have money involved there are going to be issues, so that's just a very important concern." He conceded, however, that he believes government has a necessary role in paying for medications, such as anti-retrovirals used to treat AIDS that could cost $10,000 to $20,000 a year per person. "The church is never going to have that," Warren said. "Churches are poor around the world. But they have the people. "We bring the manpower," said Warren. "Even if you've got the meds, you can't get them to the people unless you have a network." Dybul said he's aware of the concerns churches and other private groups have in partnering with government – "that you can draw away from the mission of a lot of small organizations by building a bureaucracy." One approach the Bush administration is trying, he said, is to develop a consortium of faith-based organizations that designate one or two of the partners as the liaison with the government, "so that the rest of the partners can stick to their mission." But he conceded "our processes are pretty bureaucratic." "The fact of the matter is we have to be accountable to the taxpayer," Dybul said. "So we need to know where the money went. Congress needs to know where it went. "We'd like to streamline them as much as possible," he continued. "But there is a real limit, just because of government rules." Dybul, who has been public about his homosexuality, said his personal life has no bearing on his job. "My life actually is as a physician and researcher who has been doing global AIDS work for 20 years," he said. "That's what I bring for my expertise. I also bring a compassion and care for the young orphans, vulnerable children that are suffering from any disease, including HIV/AIDS." In the closing moments of the summit, before inviting HIV patients to the stage for prayer, Warren explained how he viewed the event and the massive effort that surrounded it. "We didn't do this for a cause," he said. "We do this for a person. We do it for Jesus Christ. And if you want to know how much Jesus loves people with AIDS, you look at the cross, with arms outstretched and nail-pierced hands," Warren said, stretching out his own arms. "Jesus says, this much, this much, this is how much I love the world. This is how much I love people with AIDS. I love people so much it hurts. I'd rather die than live without these people. I want them to know me and my love for them." http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=59181 FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Revealed: New NASA images show Mercury as you have never seen it before

Signs in the heavens? LONDON DAILY MAIL [Associated Newspapers/DMGT] - January 18, 2008 Dramatic new pictures have revealed the unseen side of Mercury in detailed images taken from a Nasa spacecraft orbiting the planet. Astronomers saw the "dark side" of Mercury for the very first time when the spacecraft flew within 125 miles of the planet's surface and took 1,200 high resolution images. The reason the solar system's smallest planet is so elusive is due to its close proximity to the sun. The light from the sun makes Mercury difficult to see from Earth and when spacecrafts have flown close to the planet on previous occasions only one side has been bathed in sunlight while the other has been shrouded in darkness. When the Mariner 10 probe flew past the innermost planet in 1974 and 1975, the same hemisphere was illuminated each time due to the fact Mercury rotates three times during every two orbits. The new pictures from the Messenger craft show features as small as six miles across on the planet which is 57 million miles away from Earth. Among many new sights, the picture shows the full Caloris Basin, a huge impact basin more than 620 miles across that sits on the border between the known and previously unknown regions of the planet. They also show the complete basin interior and reveal that it is brighter than the surrounding regions, which could suggest it has a different composition. There are darker smooth areas completely surrounding Caloris and unusual dark-rimmed craters in the basin. More unprecedented images of the tiny planet are expected as the spacecraft completes three flybys of Mercury before settling into orbit in March 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.html?in_article_id=508772&in_page_id=1965
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Megachurches Add Local Economy to Their Mission

Evangelicals Riding the Beast Isaiah 30:1-3 "Woe to the rebellious children," declares the LORD, "Who execute a plan, but not Mine, And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, In order to add sin to sin; Who proceed down to Egypt Without consulting Me, To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! "Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation. NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - By Diana B. Henriques and Andrew W. Lehren - November 24, 2007 [Pictured Above: Where Megachurches are located]
In Anchorage early in October, the doors opened onto a soaring white canvas dome with room for a soccer field and a 400-meter track. Its prime-time hours are already rented well into 2011. Nearby is a cold-storage facility leased to Sysco, a giant food-distribution corporation, and beside it is a warehouse serving a local contractor and another food service company. The entrepreneur behind these businesses is the ChangePoint ministry, a 4,000-member nondenominational Christian congregation that helped develop and finance the sports dome. It has a partnership with Sysco’s landlord and owns the warehouse. The church’s leaders say they hope to draw people to faith by publicly demonstrating their commitment to meeting their community’s economic needs. “We want to turn people on to Jesus Christ through this process,” said Karl Clauson, who has led the church for more than eight years. Among the nation’s so-called megachurches — those usually Protestant congregations with average weekly attendance of 2,000 or more — ChangePoint’s appetite for expansion into many kinds of businesses is hardly unique. An analysis by The New York Times of the online public records of just over 1,300 of these giant churches shows that their business interests are as varied as basketball schools, aviation subsidiaries, investment partnerships and a limousine service. At least 10 own and operate shopping centers, and some financially formidable congregations are adding residential developments to their holdings. In one such elaborate project, LifeBridge Christian Church, near Longmont, Colo., plans a 313-acre development of upscale homes, retail and office space, a sports arena, housing for the elderly and church buildings. Indeed, some huge churches, already politically influential, are becoming catalysts for local economic development, challenging a conventional view that churches drain a town financially by generating lower-paid jobs, taking land off the property-tax rolls and increasing traffic. But the entrepreneurial activities of churches pose questions for their communities that do not arise with secular development. These enterprises, whose sponsoring churches benefit from a variety of tax breaks and regulatory exemptions given to religious organizations in this country, sometimes provoke complaints from for-profit businesses with which they compete — as ChangePoint’s new sports center has in Anchorage. Mixed-use projects, like shopping centers that also include church buildings, can make it difficult to determine what constitutes tax-exempt ministry work, which is granted exemptions from property and unemployment taxes, and what is taxable commerce. And when these ventures succeed — when local amenities like shops, sports centers, theaters and clinics are all provided in church-run settings and employ mostly church members — people of other faiths may feel shut out of a significant part of a town’s life, some religion scholars said. Precedents in History Churches have long played an economic role. Medieval monasteries in Europe and Japan were typically hubs of commerce. In the United States, many wealthy denominations have long had passive investments in real estate. And churches, like labor unions and other nonprofit groups, have been involved in serving immigrants, the elderly and the poor. But the expanding economic life of today’s giant churches is distinctive. First, they are active in less expected places: in largely flourishing suburbs and barely developed acreage far beyond cities’ beltways and in communities far from the Southern Bible Belt with which they are traditionally associated. And in most cases — as at ChangePoint in Anchorage — these churches say their economic activities are not just an expression of community service but, more important, an opportunity to evangelize. The sports dome, for example, is a way to draw the attention of young families to the church’s religious programs. “We don’t look at this as economics; we look at it as our mission,” Pastor Clauson said. Scott L. Thumma, a pioneer in the study of megachurches at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, whose roster of churches was the basis for the Times analysis, said he has noticed churches that sponsor credit unions, issue credit cards and lend to small businesses. Although community outreach is almost always cited as the primary motive, these economic initiatives may also indicate that giant churches are seeking sources of revenue beyond the collection plate to support their increasingly elaborate programs, suggested Mark A. Chaves, a religious sociologist at Duke University. Investing Capital Assets Also feeding this wave of economic activity is the growing supply of capital available to religious congregations. The Evangelical Christian Credit Union in Brea, Calif., a pioneer in lending to churches and a proxy for this market shift, has seen its loan portfolio grow to $2.7 billion, from just $60 million in the early 1990s, said Mark A. Johnson, its executive vice president. Where bankers were once reluctant to lend to churches, the credit union now shares a market with some of the nation’s largest banks. ChangePoint paid $1 million upfront and borrowed $23.5 million from a state economic development agency to buy a defunct seafood-packaging plant and warehouse out of foreclosure in July 2005. To do so, it formed a partnership with the for-profit owner of the cold-storage unit surrounded by the seafood plant’s land. An affiliated nonprofit is developing the sports dome with a gift of $4 million worth of church land. The church controls these entities directly or through board appointments, said Scott Merriner, executive pastor and a former McKinsey consultant. Pastor Clauson acknowledged that a few local businessmen who own sports facilities have complained about the subsidized competition they face from The Dome, a nonprofit organization. It is an issue the church takes seriously, he said. “We don’t want to be taking bread off of people’s tables,” the pastor said. But the sports dome “is scratching such an enormous proverbial itch, there is no way we’re harming anyone,” he said, adding, “There is more than enough need to go around.” Martin McGee, the Anchorage municipal assessor, acknowledged that the property poses an assessment challenge. Land and floor space used only by the church are exempt, he said, but the rest of the seafood plant site is taxable, and the tax treatment of the sports dome site is still under review. The tax issues will be even more complex for a megachurch project in Charlotte, N.C. There, the University Park Baptist Church paid $11.5 million late last year to buy the Merchandise Mart, a half-million-square-foot office and exhibition space. Some 57 percent of the space will ultimately be remodeled for church use, but the rest will bring new business activity to the neighborhood, said Claude R. Alexander Jr., the church’s lead pastor who also serves on the board of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. His church has left its economic mark on the neighborhood it will leave behind when it moves to the mart. With its traffic added to that of another megachurch a few miles away, a once-quiet intersection between the two churches has recently seen the construction of fast-food outlets and other businesses. The traffic is unlikely to ease when University Park moves. The other nearby megachurch, the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, already has zoning approval for Friendship Village, a complex of shops, apartments, homes, offices and housing for the elderly on 108 acres off Charlotte’s beltway. According to Tom Flynn, the economic development officer for Charlotte, University Park’s purchase of the Merchandise Mart already has prompted interest in older properties nearby. A Complex Tax Challenge The church, which formed a for-profit property management unit that also includes a small limousine service, envisions a mixture of commercial and religious uses at its new site — with its own share of the space beginning around 38 percent and rising over time. What’s a poor tax assessor to do? The entire site is currently taxable, said Alonzo Woods, the church’s director of operations. But when the church moves in, it will seek exemptions for areas used “strictly for church purposes.” Churches are moving into residential development, as well. Windsor Village United Methodist Church, one of two churches that own shopping centers in Houston, is teaming up with a national home builder to develop more than 460 homes in the southwestern section of the city. And in Dallas, The Potter’s House, a 30,000-member church established by Bishop T.D. Jakes, is the linchpin in an economic empire that includes Capella Park, a community of 266 homes. Just how far-reaching the megachurch economy can become is clear at the First Assembly of God Church in Concord, a small community northeast of Charlotte. Under the umbrella of First Assembly Ministries are the church, with 2,500 in weekly attendance; a 180-bed assisted-living center; a private school for more than 800 students; a day-care center for 115 children; a 22-acre retreat center; and a food service — all nonprofit. In addition, there is WC Properties, a for-profit unit that manages the church’s shopping center, called Community at the Village, where a Subway outlet, an eye-care shop and other businesses share space with church programs that draw traffic to the mall. Doug Rieder, the church business administrator, said WC Properties files a federal tax return and pays property taxes on the commercial space at the mall. But Mr. Rieder acknowledged the difficulty of allocating space, staff time and expenses to the appropriate tax category. “We’re very intertwined — it gets tough day to day,” he said adding, “I have to constantly ask myself whether I am accurately allocating our costs.” Concord was delighted to have First Assembly as the new landlord at the mall once anchored by Wal-Mart. “That’s a very crucial crossroads for the city,” said W. Brian Hiatt, the city manager. “And the church has been a great partner.” Another contribution the church makes to the city is a free daylong celebration it holds on Independence Day, complete with fireworks. Mr. Hiatt said no one seemed to find it awkward for a church to conduct the community’s celebration marking the birth of a country committed to separation of church and state. “It was a very positive event,” he said. Mr. Rieder, the church business manager, paused when asked whether people of other faiths would have felt comfortable at the event. “We try not to discriminate in doing community service,” he said. “There are Muslims and other non-Christians here, of course. And we do want to convert them, no doubt about it — that’s our mission. We don’t discriminate, but we do evangelize.” The same quandary confronts Pastor Clauson in Anchorage. “There is nothing inherently alienating about what we’re doing economically,” he said. “An Orthodox Jewish youngster or a conservative Muslim child encountering our programs would find zero intimidation.” Nor does he want his community to become divided along religious lines, he said. But at the same time, “we definitely want to use these efforts as an open door to the entity that we feel is the author and creator of abundant life — Jesus.” He added, “It’s a tough balancing act.” http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/23/business/23megachurch.html?ex=1353733200&en=b2e45e55c6968352&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

All Aboard the Bandwagon: How Christian anti-Zionism affects Jewish mission

CWI HERALD (Christian Witness to Israel)- December 07 - February 08 This article is an edited version of a paper presented at the LCJE International Conference, 2007. The full text can be found at www.lcje.net/papers/2007/intl/Moore.doc
According to the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Jonathan Sacks, a “tsunami” of anti-Semitism is sweeping Europe. A poll conducted in early 2007 revealed that 59% of all Europeans regard Israel as the primary threat to world peace. Another poll revealed that almost one in five Italians believe the state of Israel should cease to exist. It would appear that Rabbi Sacks’ tidal wave of Jew-hatred is linked to anti-Israel sentiment. The Feminist writer Phyllis Chesler observes in her book The New Anti-Semitism that “There’s something unbalanced, erotic, and disturbed about the level of anger that anti-Zionists bring to bear on the subject of the Jews and the Jewish state … Jews and Zionists are blamed for 9/11 in Chinese as well as in Arabic. Nobel Prize winners, European and American academics, anti-globalization activists, and Jews on the Left have all condemned Israel for daring to defend itself, while remaining menacingly silent about the suicide bombings of Israeli civilians.” Christians who hate the Jews? In an article that appeared in The Spectator, Melanie Phillips labelled anti-Zionist churchmen “Christians who hate the Jews”. Ms Phillips is not alone in thinking that exclusive condemnation of Israel is an expression of anti-Semitism. The writer and broadcaster Howard Jacobson observed in an article in The Independent newspaper on the fortieth anniversary of the Six Day War, as Britain’s University and College Union was urging a boycott of Israeli academics: “If anti-Semitism is repugnant to humanity, then it is no less repugnant to single out one country for your hatred, to hate it beyond reason and against evidence, to deny it any understanding and – most odious of all – to seek to silence its voices.” In responding to the defensive mantra: “Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism”, Jacobson wrote: “It is a false syllogism which goes Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic; I am a critic of Israel; therefore I am not an anti-Semite.” As more and more prominent churchmen single out Israel for condemnation, how can Jewish people be expected to listen to the story of Jesus? If the Church joins with those who would make the Jewish state responsible not only for the loss of Jewish lives at the hands of Palestinian terrorists but also for the deaths of non-Jewish civilians in the United States, Europe and Iraq, are the Jews not entitled to think that Christians hate them? What if ... I am occasionally approached by pro-Palestinian Christians who, when they know I work with a Jewish mission, want me to know how bad the Israelis are. My standard response is to say that if the Jewish people are so wicked, that is all the more reason to share the gospel with them. That usually takes the wind out of their sails but the sad reality is that when Christians believe the Jewish people are intrinsically evil and that Israel presents the greatest threat to world peace, they are unlikely to support Jewish mission. What, I wonder, would Israel’s evangelical denouncers do if the nation was forced by international pressure to pull down its security fence without conditions, to withdraw to pre-1967 boundaries without any concessions being required from the Palestinians, to allow a right of return for all Palestinian refugees to areas now populated by Jewish Israelis, to compensate those returnees at the expense of Israeli taxpayers and to then respond “proportionately” to the deluge of Palestinian terror that would inevitably follow? What would evangelicals who accuse the Jewish state of ethnic cleansing do if another holocaust were perpetrated on the Jews, this time on their own soil? There would be wringing of hands, no doubt, after the Jews had resumed their proper role on the world stage as victims rather than as a people able to defend themselves. But how could the Church ever hold up its head, look Jewish people in the eyes and tell them of the love of Jesus? The Church in Germany is still reeling from the Holocaust and many German Christians still feel unable to reach out to German Jews with the gospel. If the Church in the West fails to speak up for Israel as it failed to speak up for the Jews of Germany in the 1930s, how can it ever expect the Jewish people to listen to the story of Jesus? A few good men As the people of God, the Lord requires that we “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God”. It is the duty of Christians to love all human beings, including Israelis and Palestinians. We must criticise when criticism is due but if the Church is perceived to be “against” any people, culture, community or group, it will be severely hindered in its witness to those people, cultures, communities and groups. We are familiar with Edmund Burke’s maxim: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. The Holocaust occurred because too few good people spoke up for the Jews when they were made the scapegoat for Germany’s economic ills. If Christians in this generation fail to speak up for the Jewish state when its government and citizens are routinely demonised and when the international community makes light of the Iranian president’s threat to wipe Israel off the map, we may end up as witnesses to an even greater holocaust in which our Messianic colleagues and friends perish. If we do not speak up for Israel and the Jewish people, how can we expect them to listen to us when we try to share Messiah with them? If we do nothing when the rest of the Church is turning against Israel, we may well help to increase Jewish enmity towards the Messiah. Instead of saving Jewish people we will be helping to consign them to a conflagration beyond the most deranged fantasies of Adolph Hitler or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Mike Moore (General Secretary, CWI) http://www.cwi.org.uk/Heralds/Heraldnew/Bandwagon.htm
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