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Southern Religion

Southern Contrived Chicken

The North Carolina Biblical Recorder didn’t become Chick-fil-A central, although one of its articles helped heat the grease for the heapin’ helpin’ of Southern Contrived Chicken that followed.

The BR editor did pretend injured innocence by blaming mainstream media for “distortion,” yet it did nothing to inform its readers about the principal sources of the outrage (Chick-fil-A’s ties to anti-gay groups).

We recommend the full account here.

August 3, 2012 Posted by | Religion, SBC | , | Comments Off

Rector of thousand-year-old greek monestary arrested/charged with embezzlement

Ten police officers went to the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos in Greece on Tuesday to arrest the, Father Ephraim as though he were “a gangster,” raged The Voice of Russian. But as Angeliki Koutantou and Harry Papachristou of Reuters explain:

The abbot of one of Greece’s richest and most powerful monasteries went to jail on Wednesday awaiting trial for hoodwinking the government in a high-profile land swap deal six years ago. Cypriot-born Efraim, 56, chief of the Vatopedi Monastery at the monastic community of Mount Athos, is accused of inciting officials to commit acts of fraud, perjury and money-laundering, a charge that can fetch him a jail term of several years.

The government is said to have lost tens of millions of euros in a series of land swaps with Vatopedi, a monastery with many prominent fans in Greece and abroad including Britain’s Prince Charles, who is a frequent visitor. Exposure of the scandal precipitated the fall of the country’s then conservative government in 2009.

Louis A. Ruprecht writes:

It is obvious that the most visible religious institutions — from the Vatican, to Mount Athos, to the Southern Baptist Convention — are enormous bureaucracies virtually swimming in cash. Their relative immunity from taxation and the normal rules of fiscal oversight are troubling. But this case is especially jarring for the contrast it draws out between the grinding poverty of the Greek people under their new program of enforced austerity and the immeasurable wealth of the Orthodox Church. The same contrast will be drawn out in coming months in Rome, and I dare say in the U.S. as well.

The very public arrest of Catholic priests in Belgium or the U.S. for sexual crimes is one thing; the revelation of the Greek (or Roman) Church’s complicity in white-collar theft, pork-barrel politicking and a form of nepotism whose sole purpose has been to line the clerical elites’ own pockets is something else again.

Without question, the sex crimes are more heinous, but even outside criminal court there is a perhaps growing interest in financial accountability and other kinds. A few arrests, even at the level seen in Greece, aren’t enough action.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Catholic, Crime, Economy, SBC | , , | Comments Off

Civil marriage debate is owed balance and empirical evidence: Updated

The Charlotte Observer tells us that the Rev. Mark Harris, head of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, says he wants the a “civil” debate over same-sex marriage.

Yet they seem unsure about why he is leading a campaign to pass the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Although he and the BSCNC made that clear to them back in November. When the BSCNC took its official stand in favor the amendment (.pdf).

The North Carolina Family Policy Council understands that the BSCNC intends to create a church-by-church political machine to get the “preservation of marriage” amendment approved and to promote the decidedly unscientific Southern Baptist view of homosexuality:

The resolution on the Marriage Protection Amendment was introduced at the meeting by Jim Jacumin, president of the BSCNC Board of Directors. It expresses the BSCNC’s official endorsement of the proposed State Constitutional amendment, which would define marriage in North Carolina as only between one man and one woman, and will be on the ballot before voters at the May 8, 2012 primary election. The resolution (.pdf) also encourages “the churches of the Baptist State Convention to vigorously organize a strong effort among their members to support passage of the Marriage Amendment in the first primary election of 2012.” In addition to encouraging its member churches to engage in “loving, redemptive ministry to homosexuals,” it also states that the “North Carolina Baptists commit ourselves to… preach and teach the truth concerning what the Bible says about the creation of and divine nature of the institution of marriage, and against any government action to accept, sanction, approve, protect or promote same-sex marriage or legal recognition of same-sex relationships.”

The CO manages to get through the entire call for “civil” debate, by the leader of one side of that debate, without mentioning the North Carolina Psychological Association. Its position on the matter (.pdf) is a model of civility. The NCPA deals with the empirical evidence, and without the least hint of a raised voice or harsh word, explain that the best empirical evidence offers no support for banning gay marriage or any other such discrimination.

That’s as civil as debate can get, and proponents of it should have found a place in the otherwise thin, lopsided CO story.

Update:

The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families has responded:

We agree with Mark Harris’ assertion that we should keep the Amendment conversation factual – and do it in a civil way. Nevertheless, this type of discourse is something not seen in other states, especially from an industry willing to pit people’s religion – as well as gross misinformation – against families. We must be willing to honor the very real emotions, including pain and fear, that these types of discriminatory measures naturally evoke, especially when North Carolina’s particular Amendment is not only a permanent ban on marriage equality and civil unions – relationship recognitions that a majority of North Carolinians support – but also strips basic benefits and protections from loving couples, women, and children, and causes substantial economic harms to families, business and the perception of the state as a whole. No one of faith – or otherwise – will sit back while families lose their health insurance, domestic violence victims lose their protections, and loving couples lose their ability to see each other in the hospital. We can’t and we won’t let that happen. We will make sure that the families of NC are protected from this harmful, extreme amendment.

-Jeremy Kennedy, Campaign Manager, The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families.

December 27, 2011 Posted by | Politics, SBC | , | 1 Comment

Another Christian woman gives up second-class citizenship

Born into a Roman Catholic family and educated by nuns, Irish broadcast journalist Olivia O’Leary left over the church’s refusal to ordain women. According to the Belfast Telegraph:

“No longer at my age can I accept a subordinate role; not for myself, not for my daughter, not for my sisters, my nieces or friends,” the 61-year-old current affairs presenter declared.

She added that other women had walked out of the church a long time ago.

“Maybe I just kept hoping,” she added.

She was provoked to a recent, detailed on-air explanation by an interview with American Catholic theologian and intellectual George Weigel. She was unimpressed, explaining:

“He [Mr Weigel] gave the same old non-reasons for the refusal of the church to ordain women, ‘we have different tasks, different gifts’ . . . ‘God made men and women different for a reason’.”

Ms O’Leary continued: “At this stage I don’t feel rage so much as weariness — that ‘difference’ is still latched onto as a reason to discriminate; weariness and, for me, relief, that it’s all over now. I’ve moved on out.”

She now attends the Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion) where “I can stand tall because the Church of Ireland, whether I join it or not, accepts my full humanity. It ordains women.”

Unlike churches in the shrinking Southern Baptist Convention (as it is for the moment still named), where a slow parade of churches embrace expulsion by accepting women pastors.

The pursuit by women of equality where it is denied them appears to be as sweepingly nondenominational as it is relentless.

December 26, 2011 Posted by | Catholic, Religion, SBC, Uncategorized, Women | | 3 Comments

Why not pool Southern Baptist funds to better protect children?

That controversial Southern Baptist Pastors Conference is getting “$141,549.00 from the Southern Baptist Convention’s operating budget” – funds provided by the “autonomous Southern Baptist churches,” as Christa puts it. At the Stop Baptist Predators blog she goes on to say:

Why do Southern Baptist officials insist that the local churches are so absolutely autonomous that no cooperative effort can be made for the better protection of church kids against predatory pastors, and yet Southern Baptist officials have no problem at all with the local churches making a cooperative effort for the promotion of bigwig pastors at a national conference?

How many well-informed Southern Baptists, who read outside the family of Southern Baptist publications, also wonder? The abuse, after all, continues apace.

March 25, 2011 Posted by | SBC | , , | Comments Off

Don’t talk to writers from non-SBC publications?

North Carolina pastor Tim Rogers recently counseled fellow Southern Baptist Convention pastors to decline comment to non-SBC publications. He did so in he context of an internecine debate over an SBC-funded pastor’s conference. Rogers wrote:

Dr. Vance Pitman has responded to various questions and concerns raised by Southern Baptist Pastors regarding the upcoming Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference (SBPC) in Phoenix, Arizona. You can see various questions and concerns here here and here. The medium Brother Pitman chooses to give his response is the Associated Baptist Press (ABP), the news agency started by disgruntled former Southern Baptist because the Executive Committee (EC) terminated Baptist Press (BP) editors. This news agency is controlled and maintained by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) the group that would not affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and splintered from the Southern Baptist Convention to form their own Fellowship denomination. You can read the ABP article which contains Brother Pitman’s interview here.

Rogers goes on to give explicit advice about how SBC pastors should handle calls from reporters who do not work for SBC publications:

Once he found out the reporter was out side of the SBC the proper way to respond would have been to politely dismiss the call with a promise to get back.

Thus he advises putting non-SBC reporters off with a fib.

Odd. And the specific reporter to whom Pittman Rogers refers in this case is Norman Jameson, clearly identified at the conclusion of the ABP article as “former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder.”

The North Carolina Biblical Recorder is a Southern Baptist newspaper, which like its peers is declining toward oblivion.

Srsly then. Doesn’t keeping debate “in the family” still mean keeping it quiet? Suppressing it. The way cults do.

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Publications, SBC | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Richard Land lazily repeats his slanders of health reform

Richard Land’s Nazi libels and “death panels” prevarications failed to stop health reform, but he continues his lazy slanders.

The Florida Baptist Witness reported that. speaking last week to the Jacksonville Baptist Association’s Leadership Institute, the Southern Baptist Convention ethics czar repeated thoroughly discredited claims he made before health reform was approved by Congress. To wit, he said:

Recent healthcare legislation also threatens the sanctity of human life, Land said. If so-called “Obamacare” is not repealed, elderly Americans will be denied life-saving medical procedures because of the cost involved, he said.

“I personally think that the greatest threat to the sanctity of human life right now is Obamacare,” he said, adding, “I have no compunction about telling you that everybody in this room will live a shorter life, and it will be more filled with pain and suffering—if Obamacare is not rescinded—than you would otherwise. They are going to ration care.”

  1. Regarding sanctity of life, “none” is the amount of “federal funding for abortion” found in an expert assessment by Washington and Lee law professor Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, whom Mark Silk describes as “an ardent pro-lifer who’s an expert on abortion and health care.”
  2. Regarding care for elderly Americans, “senior scare is what FactCheck.org calls the alleged “half trillion dollar cut to medicare” with which this slander was launched. Pulitzer Prize winning PolitiFact.com is no more complimentary.
  3. His reference to rationed care is more scare words and the opposite is what helped inspired Catholic Health Association President Sr. Carol Keehan, DC to say “it is time for health reform.” No, as Jost explained more than a year ago, health reform provides more care for those who need it worst. Not less.

[H/T Right Wing Watch]

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Health, SBC | , , , | Comments Off

Richard Land, the culture warriors and DOMA (why they’ve lost)

While Southern Baptist Convention ethics czar Richard Land and others were laboring to organize a Defense of Marriage Act counterattack by the culture warriors, public opinion deserted them. Capping “a long-term shift in attitudes,” same-sex marriage enjoys 53 percent support in this country, the ABC News/Washington Post Poll found. Whereas only “Forty-four percent are opposed.”

The shift in public attitudes which led to this is rapid, unrelenting and across the board:

While younger adults and liberals remain at the forefront of support for gay marriage, the new results underscore its expansion. In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago, for example, under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it’s 68 percent in that group – but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points.

Adults 50 and older remain more skeptical, but even that’s seen change. Most notably, 33 percent of seniors now say gay marriage should be legal, up from 18 percent five years ago.

Trends among other groups are equally striking. Compared with five years ago support for gay marriage has grown by 10 points among women, but by 18 points among men; it’s now at parity. Support has grown by 17 points among Democrats, but also by 13 points among independents, to a clear majority, 58 percent, in the crucial political center. And it’s 63 percent among moderates, up 21 points.

As for religious groups for which opposition to same-sex marriage is doctrinaire — wherein one finds Land’s core support group and the choir to which he preaches — the shift in attitudes is equally unrelenting:

Support is up by a striking 23 points among white Catholics, often a swing group and one that’s been ready, in many cases, to disregard church positions on political or social issues. But they have company: Fifty-seven percent of non-evangelical white Protestants now also support gay marriage, up 16 points from its level five years ago. Evangelicals, as noted, remain very broadly opposed. But even in their ranks, support for gay marriage is up by a double-digit margin.

It is inopportune, Richard, to negotiate a truce in the culture war over same-sex marriage. Not however, as you and your allies argue, because a majority of Americans support fallback to the intolerance of a bygone era. They don’t and the trends suggest that you will see the time when a majority of your target audience doesn’t either.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Politics, Religion, SBC | , , | Comments Off

Thom Rainer’s response to the critics among Southern Baptists

Thom Rainer, president/CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Lifeway Christian Resources, has roused some controversy with a pair of blog posts [1, 2] which are unenlightened by statistical evidence, by hyperlinks to illustrations of his arguments or by meaningful anecdotes bolstering his arguments.

In his posts, Rainer argues that Southern Baptist ministers are plagued by a rising “level and frequency of criticisms,” which he terms “the great distraction.” And recommends in his second post that churches and their members deal aggressively with “the nagging naysayers.” Rather than, say, give constructive attention to critics’ arguments.

Not everyone in his blog’s audience was charmed.

SBC pastor William Thornton respectfully dissected Rainer’s vacant arguments. The takeaway:

From where I stand and from what I see and read, it is completely understandable that critics, aware that they will never receive a hearing from their leadership, will sometimes take their criticism to alternative channels like blogs and discussion boards. They do this not because they are unregenerate, vicious, or cheapshot critics, but because they have been taught that they will not get a hearing from their pastor or church and that they will be treated badly if they do speak up.

Tom Rich at FBC Jax Watchdog made Rainer’s complaints the launch pad for a series of blogs excoriating “crybaby pastors” [1, 2, 3]. Rich persuasively argues that Rainer and Mac Brunson, pastor of FBC Jacksonville, are on the same team:

And when Rainer urges church members to “confront” complainers, I just couldn’t help but think of Mac Brunson’s infamous “shut ‘em down” quote in the pulpit just a few days before the President of the Trustees stood in a special business meeting on 2/25/09 to read his “Deacon’s Resolution 2009-1“, which included this quote:

“And whereas it is the belief and expression of the deacons herein that division, strife, and discord caused to church members and unjust criticism and ridicule of the ministry, staff, leadership, pastor, and people expressed to the general public at large in any form and by any means by any member of the church should be viewed as an attack against the Lord’s church contrary to scriptural truth and confronted aggressively in accordance with Scripture and the disciplinary provisions of the bylaws of the church.”

Darlene (Dee) Parsons at The Wartburg Watch argues that if there is an upsurge of criticism, it is well-earned by pastors who have abused their longtime control of the microphone:

However, the tables are turning and the flock is beginning to answer back. Here is the bottom line. Many of the “happening” pastors claim they want people to come to church and listen to them. Some of them appear on talk shows such as Larry King and Fox, pontificating about the faith and, of course, their ministries. They want public access and public attention but then get really bent out of shape when the public takes them up on their offer, pays attention, and then starts asking really, really hard questions. Like, why do you get a salary of close to a million dollars and yet tell us all to gross tithe to the church?

Christa Brown at Stop Baptist Predators doesn’t refer to Rainer’s blog in her analysis of Two Rivers Baptist Church’s recent decision to change its name to “Fellowship at Two Rivers,” thus editing out “Baptist.” But she does detail how the Rainer-recommended response to critics has tarnished the Baptist brand.

March 10, 2011 Posted by | SBC | | 1 Comment

Southern Baptists can’t handle the truth

Christa Brown at Stop Baptist Predators deals with the Southern Baptist failure to take immediate, reasonable steps to protect the victims:

We saw this pattern in the recent case in Port Orchard, Washington. “We want the truth to come out,” said senior pastor Jamie Greening, after another minister in his church was arrested on child sex charges and after police said he had “confessed on tape to raping a 12-year-old.”

Failure to protect other potential victims while awaiting an outcome at trial is negligent. As Brown explains:

Just because a man hasn’t been criminally convicted doesn’t mean that he hasn’t sexually abused a child. In fact, many experts estimate that 90 percent of active sex offenders have no criminal record. This is consistent with FBI data, which indicates that only about 1 to 10 percent of child molestation crimes are ever even disclosed, much less prosecuted or convicted.

Children and other potential victims are put at undue risk when a criminal conviction is a faith group’s only measure of “the truth” in these cases. The widespread Southern Baptist standard in these matters is wrong.

March 9, 2011 Posted by | children, Crime, SBC | , , | Comments Off

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