Southern Religion

The religion of witches and witch hunters

Halloween debunking a few myths about witches, University of Edinburgh Reader in History Julian Goodare writes:

I’m sometimes told that witches practised a pagan religion that had gone underground with the coming of Christianity. This idea was popularised in the 1920s and had some scholarly credibility until about 1975, but has been recognised as a myth ever since. Most witches were executed in the 16th and 17th centuries (about 50,000 of them – not nine million, by the way). There were still survivals from paganism (a few traditional charms had pre-Christian origins), but witches and witch-hunters alike were Christians.

Many of these myths are attractive because they enable people to sympathise with the victims of witch-hunting. However, we historians wish to extend the same understanding to all the people we study – witch-hunters as well as witches. There’s little evidence that witch-hunters were considered wicked; many were considered pious. And although “wickedness” may be a plausible description of an activity, it cannot explain causation.

October 30, 2010 Posted by | Cultural | , | Comments Off on The religion of witches and witch hunters

On Sunday, victims of priest sex abuse to march on Vatican

Reuters reported Friday:

Victims of abuse by Roman Catholic priests will try to march on the Vatican on Sunday despite the lack of a police permit, to demand the Church do more to protect children and hold abusers accountable.

Bernie McDaid and Gary Bergeron, founders of, told a news conference on Friday they would start a petition drive to ask the United Nations to declare systemic paedophilia a crime against humanity.

“We are not crippled. We are injured people who are willing to talk about it now. The guilt and the shame is in the cover-up,” said McDaid, who become one of the first abuse victims to meet with Pope Benedict in Washington in 2008.

Read the entire story here.

October 29, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children, Crime | , | Comments Off on On Sunday, victims of priest sex abuse to march on Vatican

Associate pastor barred from church pending resolution of sexual misconduct charges

Emerald Baptist Church Associate Pastor and Minister of Music Norman Henley Keesee has been barred from church activities and the church grounds pending resolution of charges of sexual misconduct and lewd acts.

Keesee, a Southern Baptist, was arrested by Greenwood, S.C., police after “the mother of a 13 year old girl and attendee of Emerald Baptist Church met with authorities to alert them to allegations made by her daughter.”

According to GWD Today:

The victim stated that during private keyboard lessons conducted in the victims bedroom, Keesee would touch areas of her body that were not conducive with the lesson. The victim said that she would pull away from Keesee but that he would continue his actions during the lesson. According to the mother, Keesee had given her daughter keyboard lessons from February to July of this year. The victim had told her mother at the end of July that she no longer wanted to play the keyboard, which according to the mother was very strange at the time. The victim also gave a second child’s name with which Keesee had given keyboard lessons.

Associated Baptist Press reports that Pastor Curtis Eidson said:

As the pastor of the church, I am not here tonight to defend anyone’s innocence nor to declare anyone’s guilt. It’s not my place. I am here to say tonight, though, that with all that is going on Norman is still my brother in the Lord and the victim is still my sister in the Lord. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will change that.

North Carolina youth minister arrested

Thomas L. Elliott, who is a youth minister at Autryville Baptist Church in North Carolina, was arrested in an undercover internet sex sting by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office Thursday evening, the Sampson Independent reported.

Elliot was a volunteer youth minister at Evergreen Baptist Church before being hired at Autryville Baptist.

October 29, 2010 Posted by | children, Churches, Crime, SBC | Comments Off on Associate pastor barred from church pending resolution of sexual misconduct charges

Scottish Catholics asked to come up with the cash, fast

Scottish Catholics asked to dig deep this weekend, apparently in part because Pope Benedict XVI attracted 30,000 fewer pilgrims than anticipated. They’re being asked to come up with another £800,000 ($1.1 million). That’s on the heels of £1.7 million they were asked to come up with prior to the visit.

October 29, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI | , , | Comments Off on Scottish Catholics asked to come up with the cash, fast

What human rights?

Andrew Brown writes, Swift-like, for The Guardian:

The essential point about human rights is that there is no evidence whatsoever that they actually exist. Children are born without any belief in them and they were certainly never heard of in all the millennia of prehistory. Even in recorded history, they are a very new invention, and one which has been confined, even in principle, to a very small part of the world. They are based entirely on documents written by human beings, and produced through squalid political processes nothing like the later myths. Countries where enemies of the state are routinely tortured before being executed sign declarations of rights with as much enthusiasm as peaceful democracies.

October 26, 2010 Posted by | Satire | | Comments Off on What human rights?

What N.C. Southern Baptist fundamentalists want in an editor?

About the abrupt resignation of North Carolina Biblical Recorder Editor Norman Jameson John D. Pierce of Baptists Today writes

In 2000, Herb Hollinger retired from the helm of Baptist Press — the Southern Baptist Executive Committee public relations arm that masquerades as a legitimate news service. In a meeting shortly afterward, longtime editor of Louisiana’s Baptist Message, Lynn Clayton, asked then-SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman what kind of person would be chosen to lead BP.

Without hesitation, Chapman responded: “Someone loyal to me and the conservative cause.” While he expanded on that response, there was no mention of competence or experience, just loyalty to those looking for help in carrying out their Fundamentalist agenda. Chapman found such a person in Will Hall. North Carolina will find one too.

October 26, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , , | Comments Off on What N.C. Southern Baptist fundamentalists want in an editor?

There is a price in Baptistland for defending those sexually abused by clergy

The passion of religious faith transmuted into meanness, explains Christa Brown:

I never imagined a world of so much meanness until I stepped onto the terrain of Baptistland with pleas for clergy accountability and for care of abuse survivors.

Worst of all . . . it’s a malignant meanness that masks itself as religion.


The comments deserve a read too.

October 26, 2010 Posted by | children, Churches, Crime, Religion, SBC | , , , | Comments Off on There is a price in Baptistland for defending those sexually abused by clergy

Watchdog settles with city/state (not FBC Jacksonville)

Jacksonville, Fla., blogger Thomas Rich, who until unmasked in an unjustified criminal investigation blogged anonymously as FBC Jax Watchdog, has settled his suit against the city and state.

Terms include, Watchdog explains:

  • A $50,000 payment to Rich.
  • A meeting with Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford to discuss ethics issues to help develop “conflict of interest code for its detectives.”
  • Development and implementation of “a training program for JSO detectives specifically on constitutional First Amendment issues and legal ramifications that must be considered when issuing investigative subpoenas.”

Rich’s attorney, Michael Roberts, said the separate defamation suit against the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville will continue.

The suit was filed after FBC Jax Watchdog’s anonymity was silently demolished in 2008 by a still unsatisfactorily explained and, from the point of view of the blogger at the time, secret criminal investigation. The settlement did not involve an admission of fault.


Anonymous blogs permit the relatively powerless to speak what they believe is truth, to power. Power rarely responds graciously. In this case, the unmasking and FBC Jax Watchdog had a serious impact on his life. As his attorney explained:

“Mr. Rich was essentially excommunicated from his church,” his attorney, Michael Roberts, said. “He was a member for 20 years. Sure he was critical of the new leadership at the church, but a lot of members were critical of things they didn’t like.”

The bylaws governing resolution of grievances within that church were and apparently still are heavily loaded against dissent. This case illustrates that an oppressive approach tends to drive debate underground — often into anonymous blogs — and unmasking the blogger does not eliminate that dissent or refute the criticisms. A heavy-handed response in fact underlines the social value of dissent and of the dissenter’s efforts.

October 22, 2010 Posted by | Churches, Religion, WWW | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Anglican Communion’s women bishops (still none in England)

The 28 women bishops in the Anglican Communion, reviewed by Ruthie Glendhill, religion correspondent for The Times of London.

None in England.

After the review, Glendhill interviews Christina Rees, who has campaigned for the ordination of women in the Anglican Church and is now the Chairperson of WATCH (Women and the Church), about “the prospects for women bishops in the Church of England after initial analysis of the General Synod election results from 2010” indicated a shift against them:

October 19, 2010 Posted by | Churches, Women | , , | Comments Off on The Anglican Communion’s women bishops (still none in England)

Update: Texas Baptist ‘Valleygate’ lawsuit settled

The Valleygate lawsuit filed by the Rev. Otto Arango alleging libel and slander by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and others has been settled in mediation and without an admission of fault to or by Arago, according to confidential sources and documents we were provided.

The overall terms of the settlement “are confidential.”

The burden of the settlement with Arango is shared, we were informed, by the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), the Dallas-based Texas Baptist Standard, Calvary Baptist Church of Mineral Wells, Texas, and the other defendants, through their insurance carriers.

Terms were apparently agreed to in mediation last month.

It was Cavalry Baptist Church Pastor David Montoya, through his blogging as the Spiritual Samurai [now at Spiritual Samurai 2010], who first called attention to the issues involved.

Asked to comment on the matter today, Montoya told us, “I understand that the insurance company for my church has settled on my behalf as well as the church. The amount is confidential. I never had any malice toward Pastor Arango. I was upset with the people in charge of Church Planting at the BGCT back at that time for their complete lack of oversight as found by the investigators in their 2006 report, that was to whom my blogging was directed.”

As Sam Hodges of the Dallas Morning News explained in August, 2008, when the original action was filed:

The Rev. Otto Arango claims he was defamed by the Dallas-based BGCT as it dealt with allegations of “phantom churches” and misspent money in a scandal that came to be known in Baptist circles as “Valleygate.”

In an independent investigation commissioned by the BGCT noted that Dr. Arango and two other pastors sponsored a reported 258 new churches, which together received more than $1.3 million in BGCT funds.

But many of those new churches failed, others were mere “extension units” of existing churches, and some never existed at all, the investigators found in a report sharply critical of the BGCT for lax oversight.

Although the investigators’ report referred to a “troubling deposits of checks into Dr. Arango’s personal bank account,” no criminal charges were filed. The BGCT chose not to pursue recovery of any of the more than $1.3 million in BGCT funds involved, arguing that civil action was “neither practical nor would it represent good stewardship of churches’ resources.”

Arango’s subsequent suit was filed in Hidalgo County (TX) District Court and sought damages for both lost earnings and “past and future mental anguish.” Arango’s attorney said in 2008 that the matter had made it hard for Arango to continue working with churches in Texas and across Latin America.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , | Comments Off on Update: Texas Baptist ‘Valleygate’ lawsuit settled