Dozens of parents said they are left scrambling to find a school for their children after leaders at New Birth Christian Academy said the campus will not reopen next week.
School officials told Channel 2 Action News that money and not enough students are the main issues, but some parents said they believe it’s more than that.
How much more than that?
The academy is housed inside the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. A spokesperson made it clear that the school closure has nothing to do with the sex abuse allegations against Bishop Eddie Long.
“I don’t believe that. I believe that this last straw with the divorce, the sealed settlement, it just does not look good,” said the parent.
Parents received the letter on Dec. 22. School reopens there on Jan. 4. The DeKalb County, Ga., school system has said it will help place the refugee students.
With a straight face, news services reported this week that in 2008-2009, the number of Southern Baptists declined 0.42% to 16.1 million members. It is the third straight year of decline, according to the 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.
Yet those are grossly misleading numbers. They say nothing of value about the number of active members, and it is old news that active membership is perhaps one-third of those reported membership numbers.
The Wall Street Journal reported in 1990 that, of the 14.9 million members of Southern Baptist churches (according to an official count), over 4.4 million are “non-resident members.” This means they are members with whom the church has lost touch. Another 3 million hadn’t attended church or donated to a church in the past year. That left about 7.4 million “active” members. However, according to Sunday School consultant Glenn Smith, even this is misleading, because included in this “active” figure are those members who only attended once a year at Easter or Christmas.
More recent numbers from Jim Ellif’s Founders Ministries article are even smaller:
Out of the Southern Baptist’s 16,287,494 members, only 6,024,289, or 37%, on average, show up for their church’s primary worship meeting (usually Sunday morning). This is according to the Strategic Information and Planning department of the Sunday School Board (2004 statistics).
No need to belabor the point. That 16.1-million-member Southern Baptist Convention is as much of a myth as Bigfoot.
I remember that girl — the girl whose whole sense of self disintegrated after she was molested, sexually abused and raped by a Southern Baptist minister when she was a 16-year-old church kid. I’m grateful that Trish remembers her, too.
In truth, I have no memory of sitting on the floor in Bruce Hall and telling Trish about “my affair.” But I expect Trish’s memory is more accurate than mine. I was probably totally sloshed.
What I do remember is that, several years after college, Trish had the misfortune of calling me on the phone one night when I had the pills on the counter and was already half-drunk and was trying to get up my gumption to down them. Trish figured out what was going on and she stayed on the phone with me for hours. No telling how things would have turned out if she hadn’t.
Churches are being hurt by the recession, Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today reports. Most churches. Bob Smietana of the Nashville Tennessean reported that megachurches are doing comparatively well:
…giving and attendance are up at the nation’s largest congregations, according to the Leadership Network, an association for megachurches.
The group surveyed 253 churches that average over 1,000 in weekly attendance. About 8 in ten said attendance was up at their services. Two thirds said the giving was up around 3 percent.
Tom Rich at FBC Jax Watchdog waxed seasonally poetic in his review of fund raising at some megachurches:
‘Twas the Sunday before Christmas
and all through God’s church
“Not a churchman is tithing!”
Yelled the preacher from his perch.
The mega church preacher
climbed up into his place
Said our tithe to his church,
Was required for grace.
. . .
He was dressed all in finery,
Even cufflinks of gold,
He took out his Bible
and Yelled to the fold:
“Now please get out your bibles,
You stupid sheep,
You’re holding your tithe back,
You’re being way too cheap,
. . .
Read the rest of his poem here.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land is closely identified with the lie that President Barack Obama’s plan to overhaul the American health insurance system is a government takeover of health care that he deserves dishonorable mention.
A well-constructed Google search finds more than 9,000 ties between Land and that argument.
His most extravagant stunt in service of that lie was an alleged 1.3-million signature petition by the National Center for Policy Analysis/Salem Radio Network (for which he is a show host). At the time, he said:
This petition is indicative of a spontaneous grass roots eruption of protest against a government takeover of the American health care system.
More extravagantly, on March 11, 2010, Land argued in an open letter:
… President Obama and the liberal congressional leadership are trying to ram through a takeover of nearly one-sixth of the U.S. economy with a new strategy.
Yet the St. Petersburg Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning PolitiFact service concludes in naming the 2010 Lie of the Year:
Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ independent fact-checking website, also chose it as the year’s most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann’s claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)
By selecting “government takeover’ as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.
The phrase is simply not true.
Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: “The label ‘government takeover” has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a ‘takeover.’ “
They document the fallacy of the claim point by point, and its origin in a Republican strategy memo, here.
The SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s full-throated voice of a falsehood is not a new. In 2009, Land was likewise owed honorable mention (below Sarah Palin} for the PolitiFact Lie of the Year award trophy for elevating fictitious “death panels” to a topic of frenzied national debate.
Indeed, Land promoted both the falsehood that health reform involves eugenics programs, like those instituted in Nazi Germany, and the “death panels” myth which is part of those partly retracted claims.
Like Fox News, ERLC so often fosters misinformation that relying upon them has meant being misled on matters of historic significance.
Bold Faith Type offers a few other examples of Religious Right promotion of the falsehood:
- The Family Research Council held a webcast called “Government Takeover of Healthcare: Counting the Cost.”
- The Susan B. Anthony List took out radio ads alleging that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) “cast the deciding vote to allow the government takeover of health care.”
- FRCAction PAC ran campaign ads accusing numerous Democrats of supporting “big government” that is “taking over our health care.”
There is no reason to believe Southern Baptist clergy or protestant clergy in general are less sexually abusive than Catholic priests. So you might expect the big protestant denominations so budget substantial amounts of money to controlling the problem.
Yet when Christa Brown looked “at the 2011 proposed budget for the largest statewide Baptist organization in the country” — the Baptist General Convention of Texas — she found just $3,504 allocated to “clergy sexual misconduct.”
Georgia megachurch Pastor Jim Swilley said the death of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, 18, who jumped off a bridge after a secretly-taped sexual encounter between him and another man was posted on the internet, prompted him to come out.
Swilley is founder of Church in the Now in Conyers, Ga. NPR reported:
“There are two things in my life that are an absolute,” the megachurch pastor told his flock. “I did not ask for either one of them, both of them were imposed upon me, I had no control over either of them. One was the call of God on my life… and the other thing … was my sexual orientation.”
Jim Swilley — a twice-married father of four, a man who comes from a long line of evangelical preachers — revealed a secret he’d been holding onto most of his life:
Christa Brown writes about the case of Robert Dando:
- Dando was very closely connected to the highest levels of Baptists’ worldwide leadership. He previously served as executive assistant to the president of the Baptist World Alliance. This was a guy who ran with the big dogs.
- Dando “was embroiled in another child sex abuse scandal when he was a minister at Orchard Baptist Fellowship” in the United Kingdom. In 2001, when the leader of the church, Dr. Anthony Gray, was convicted of serious sex offenses against a 14-year-old boy, Dando said this: “All our youth work is carried out within proper guidelines.” Yet, we now know that Dando too was sexually abusing kids, and had been since at least as far back as 1995. (Do these guys run in packs?)
- At the time of his arrest, Dando was the prominent senior minister of Worcester Park Baptist Church in suburban London.
- Dando pled guilty to repeatedly abusing 2 boys in Virginia, starting when they were 7 and 8 years old. Virginia prosecutors said that, under questioning, Dando also admitted to sexually abusing boys in the United Kingdom.
- Dando had plenty of access to kids. His wife was a national vice-president of the Boys’ Brigade, a Christian youth organization with more than 500,000 members in 60 countries. Dando also worked for a children’s charity in India.
- Dando previously worked as a magistrate on a family court panel, which dealt with child care and child access proceedings.
Update: Dando target of UK investigation
Claire Fox of the Guardian writes:
A Baptist minister who admitted abusing children in the US faces a British police investigation after confessing to similar offences.
Reverend Robert Dando, 46, a senior minister at Worcester Park Baptist Church, pleaded guilty in Fairfax, Virginia, to four counts of sexually molesting the two young sons of family friends.
Dando sexually abused the boys between 1995 and 1999, from the ages of seven and eight.
Officials told Fairfax County Circuit Court one of the victims said Dando molested him by touching his genitals on 50 to 60 different occasions.
Fairfax County prosecutors have also revealed Dando admitted under questioning to touching young boys in the United Kingdom in a similar way.
Randy Roberts Potts, grandson of Oral Roberts, a letter to his gay Uncle Ronnie, who killed himself in June of 1982.
In responses to the four lawsuits filed against him and New Birth Baptist Church, Bishop Eddie Long denied coercing the young men into sexual relationships, but admitted other key aspects of their accounts. The responses were filed in DeKalb County (Georgia) State Court on Monday.
In September, four young men — Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande — filed suits against Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The young men claimed Long coerced them into having sex with him in exchange for lavish gifts, trips and jobs. In the filings, Long said it has been a practice of his to occasionally share a room with members of his congregation. However, he said “the plaintiff’s claims of sexual misconduct are not true.
He admitted that he took the men on trips, but he denied the complaints of sexual contact. He did admit to hugging some of the men.
Long also admitted to giving the plaintiffs gifts, including cars, and helping them financially, but he denied that it was in exchange for sex. He said he has “provided sporadic financial assistance,” and he routinely pays for rent and other expenses for New Birth members, according to the filings.
Almost 75 people led by Bishop “Prophet” H. Walker of True Light Pentecost Church in Spartanburg, S.C., called for Long’s resignation in a ralliy “on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol” Sunday,