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Archive for the ‘prophetic’ Category

from Herescope:

Creating A “Low-Intensity Faith”

The Wall Street Journal wrote last week that “Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, a friend and frequent interviewer of the pope, reported that the pontiff had denied the existence of hell.”

Sinners who die without achieving eternal salvation “are not punished,” the pope said, according to an article by Mr. Scalfari in the Itlaian newspaper La Repubblica. “There is no hell; there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”[1]

Predictably the Vatican would later release a statement that partially denied the report, but also “stopped short of a specific denial.”[2] This clever dialectic maneuver is a perfect example of two steps forward, one step back. Now the issue of hell is on the table and up for debate, once again illustrating how the Pope Francis has “shaken up perceptions of Catholic doctrine.”[3]

The Pope is merely following in the steps of other theologians and leaders who have professed orthodoxy out of one side of their mouth while teaching new doctrine.[4] Their strategies appear to be the same. The Wall Street Journal’s Vatican correspondent, Francis X. Rocca, describes it:

For more conservative critics, the pope’s approach amounts to promotion of a “low-intensity Catholicism that can be easily welcomed by those far from the faith and even hostile to it,” said Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert who writes for Italy’s L’Espresso magazine.

The nun turned her back on the class. (We were still not safe from scrutiny… we all knew she also had eyes in the back of her head.) Jimmy Cummings could make these strange voices and sounds and get us giggling… and then when the good sister turned around to find the culprit, Jimmy could instantly take on the countenance of a cherub and someone else would be blamed. His unique ability served him well. He is now Voice Actor Jim Cummings… the voice of Winnie the Pooh!

I digress… Back to what the nun had written on the green blackboard. She took the pointer, a weapons grade staff with a rubber tip that looked like a ballistic missile, and pronounced the phrase she had written:

Ex Cathedra 

She then went on to explain that whenever the Pope was seated in the chair (also called the throne of St. Peter) whatever he said was infallible. He was not to be questioned for he was speaking in the place of God. The Latin phrase ex cathedra means “from or out of the chair”

There was another Latin term we would learn:

Imprimatur 

Imprimatur was the term used to describe the authority of the Church when it came to anyone publishing anything that had to do with the teachings of the Church. It was an official endorsement or sanction… a seal of approval. Yet another Latin phrase would be the official Imprimatur:

Nihil Obstat

It means “Nothing is in the way or is unacceptable or offensive.”

Two days ago, I was listening to a national talk show. I actually got on the air and was able to engage the host on a topic that is important to me… how the media is intentionally trying to undermine our values and beliefs. After the conversation and just before the commercial break, the host teased the topic for the next segment:

“Stick around folks, did you hear the Pope said there is no Hell?”

The current Pope has made numerous remarks that seem to confute not only Catholic Dogma, but the Bible itself. He took a lot of heat when he opined about the whole issue of homosexuality. “Who am I to judge?” I mean no disrespect, but I said out loud when I heard it, “I know who you are… You are Vicar of Christ on earth, the unquestionable representative of God to over a billion people. You sit on a throne, and utter remarks that are deemed to be infallible. You and those who rule with you can excommunicate people, hence cut them off from the means of grace… ergo consigning them to the Hell you said is not what the Bible describes, and Jesus believed to be real. In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned the word Hell more than He did Heaven.”

The implications of all this are far reaching. What else in the Bible will be deemed to be inaccurate or false? Does the word infallible mean… sometimes or ‘sort of’? And what of all the tormented souls who died believing that they were damned to Hell? The Pope is reported to have said that the unrepentant ones don’t go to Hell. They just disappear. The Bible describes torment that never ends… a Dante’s inferno.

There is an angst that is palpable in our world… Constitutions mean nothing. Vows mean even less than nothing and we, lemming-like, rush to fall into the abyss as the institutions of power in our country disassemble all that was based on God’s word.

Listen to this noble school mission statement:  

“Christo et Ecclesia”

For Christ and the Church! This is the founding mission statement of Harvard! Princeton had this lofty goal for its students, To know God in Jesus Christ… to live a godly sober life.”[6]

God said, “For I am the Lord. I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) The writer to the Hebrews said under the unction of The Holy Spirit, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!” (Hewbrews 10:31) We have for a long time meekly submitted to the abandonment of the very notion there is such a thing as Truth. One writer quipped “God created man in his own image and likeness… and now man has returned the favor.”

I remember preaching a message years ago in which I talked about the Bible’s use of the word authority. Now for Catholics, authority rests in a man who speaksex cathedra… from the chair. For those who rule us politically their authority can be described as ex officio… out of the office they hold. But for the believer in Jesus, the authority that He grants us is based on our relationship with Him. The word translated authority in the Greek is exousia. It is a derivative of the verb “to be” It can be rendered ‘Out of who I AM’.

Is there a Hell? Is it how the Bible describes it? I read in the Bible that there is a hell and that Jesus affirmed it and warned that some will go there. I have staked my life on its veracity.

I hold that the answer does not rest with a man, or an organization, or a tradition. The Bible says, “All Scripture is God breathed.” (1 Timothy 3:16) “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” said Jesus, “but My Words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33) That is proof enough for me.

The Truth:

For the truth about hell, see Pastor Larry DeBruyn’s excellent article, “An Imaginary Cosmic Reality,”[7] where he refutes the denial of hell. Here is a brief excerpt:

Many, even Christians, reject the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles regarding the eternal punishment of the wicked. They point out that no biblical word expresses the concept of “eternity,” but only “a long period”or “remotest time” (Hebrew ‘olam) or “age” (Greek aion). They argue that because of these words’ multifaceted meanings there is no word in Scripture expressing a forever category of time. Therefore it is presumptuous for anyone to think hell will never end. But the Apostle John describes the state of being consigned to the Lake of Fire as one of being “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). The time frame expressed is in multiples of forever-s, one of ages of ages. These multiples of ages is the longest concept of time the Greek language, or perhaps any language, can express (Greek plurals, eis tous aionas ton aionon, Revelation 20:10). Combined with “day and night” (Greek, hemeras kai nyktos), “for ever and ever” nuances a timeless existence in which 24/7, for ages of ages, the unholy trinity—the beast, the false prophet, the devil—and others will be confined. Together, the clauses express the “the unbroken continuity of their torment” in perpetuity.

“And I say unto you my friends,
Be not afraid of them that kill the body,
and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear:
Fear Him, which after He hath killed
hath power to cast into hell;
yea,
 I say unto you, Fear Him.” 
(Jesus, Luke 12:4-5)
“Jesus saith unto him,
I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto
 the Father, but by Me.”
(John 14:6)

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I have seen as well what this article details, people no longer care about eschatology or discernment, they just want to hear positive things.

from Lighthouse Trails Research:

Not long ago, social media (e.g. Facebook, Google, etc.) presenting end-times information was bustling with activity. Eschatological and discernment posts were peppered with thousands of favorable commentaries. Now, most of the ones I’ve checked have incurred a significant drop-off in views, likes, comments, and shares. The most popular ones are receiving only a few hundred views and some less than a hundred. It is as if a switch was flipped and people are staying away from information deemed “negative.” The blogs and pages maintaining viewership are the ones presenting heresy or benign information.

Why are people shunning the news of a perilous time arriving? Are they rejecting portents of a harsh period because they no longer believe them to be true? No, I don’t think so. I believe it is what I call the Great Shut-Down. I’ve been expecting it to manifest—it has finally arrived. The Great Shut-Down is the point when negative information overload reaches a saturation point. People can only take so much bad news, especially those who are spiritually weak or have not been conditioned to receive harsh truth.

Futurologist Alvin Toffler labels the phenomenon in secular society as “future shock” syndrome. Toffler postulates that future shock is the result of people witnessing and feeling the effects of sudden negative changes in society. The lack of response from any authoritative source can cause them to feel helpless and hopeless. They reach the point where they no longer have the will to resist or even complain. Obviously, the secular faction is not looking to Christianity for hope. However, many professing Christians seem to be experiencing a lack of hope as well.

Sociologist and philosopher Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) observed that the collapse of European society by modernity dramatically affected Christianity. He observed that once “the collective force so vital for the life of a society was no longer generated,”1 faith in God declined. Harsh burdens and stresses prevented the people from sensing God’s presence. This resulted in replacing faith with belief in social justice and science. In other words, “the social milieu that supported Christianity disappeared, leaving Christian faith, values, and thinking without any social foundations to give them life.”2

Consider the situation today. Evidence suggests that Christianity is disintegrating from the inside out. Christian leaders are allowing (either through their silence or their promotion) millions of Christians to be introduced to heretical doctrines and practices. The effects of this landslide of heresy are pushing biblical Christianity into obscurity. One of the heresies that has made major inroads is contemplative spirituality (a mystical spirituality often introduced through Spiritual Formation programs). It is going unchecked and virtually fully ignored by almost every Christian leader, spreading throughout Christian colleges, seminaries, ministries, and denominations rapidly. People don’t realize that by embracing such a belief system, they are, in effect, rejecting the biblical concept of God’s nature because the two oppose each other. And the results of this are rejection of love for truth and unbridled acceptance of heretical and cultural trends.

Shutting Down or Staying Alert?
Whatever the cause, shutting down is the worst thing a Christian can do at this point of time. Instead of shutting down, believers need to be selective about what they are putting into their minds and spirits. Being informed is essential to being prepared. Shutting down will not prepare one to endure the harshness of the tough days ahead. It’s one thing if believers are focusing on their relationship with the Lord and want to spend less time on the Internet and watching TV. However, the temptation for many (and I have seen it already) will be to shut down by engaging in entertainment media and outlets of benign and mundane information. Rather than adjusting with balance, they are going into denial, choosing to believe we have lots of time before our society, as we know it, collapses. That’s the “Ostrich Complex,” and professing Christians with the Ostrich Complex will pay a severe price for what they are enjoying now.

As painful and frightening as it is to accept, I believe we are on the verge of a global government and religion that will be very brutal to true Christians. It will take more than a sabbatical from bad news and ominous warnings to prepare for enduring life in such an environment.

Satan, the enemy of our souls, is working overtime right now to “wear out the saints” (Daniel 7:25), but I cannot exhort you enough, this is not a time when born-again believers in Christ can afford to be worn down, bury their heads, and become apathetic toward what is happening around us. For those who cave in to that temptation of apathy, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to stand when things get truly harsh. The time to prepare is long past, but it’s still not too late. The first step is to wake up and accept truth. It is time to gather and store “oil,” the substance that keeps our light shining. In order to keep that flame lit and not allow it to become a flickering flame on a wick in a near-empty reservoir, we must put into action our confession of faith in Christ. He promises to sustain us as we abide in Him.

It is essential for preparation and subsequent endurance that we acknowledge the spiritual war in which we find ourselves, that we do not shut down our senses because of negative information overload, and that we do not live in a bubble of false security.

May we also remember that this home on earth is not our final destination. We have a home where God dwells in righteousness. Nothing in this life is worth forfeiting the opportunity to live in that eternal kingdom with Him. If we are going to defeat the forces of darkness that seek to minimize our efforts and diminish our faith, we will have to fight, “not as one that beateth the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26) but as informed and equipped saints of God. We must not deceive ourselves and think we can be both complacent and effective all at the same time.

Instead of shutting down, let us look up. Genuine blessed hope is the buffer for the stress of perilous times. It can only be had with a sincere relationship with Christ, a strong knowledge of His Word, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit (who “shall teach you all things; John 14 :26). That is the only focus that makes sense in this period of encroaching darkness. As the psalmist so well stated, let us hope in His mercy, rejoice in Him, and trust in His holy name.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.—(Psalm 33:18-21)

The above is an extract of Cedric Fisher’s booklet, The Unacknowledged War and the Wearing Down of the Saints. To order the full booklet, click here.

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“The apparent discrimination against Christians by the United Kingdom and the UNHCR is all the more disturbing in light of studies that find Christians to be the most persecuted faith in the world.”

from The Gatestone Institute:

The British government appears recently to have decided that it would like to give the impression that it cares about persecuted Christians. Prime Minister Theresa May said in Parliament on July 18:

“As a Government we stand with persecuted Christians all over the world and will continue to support them. It is hard to comprehend that today we still see people being attacked and murdered because of their Christianity, but we must reaffirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions and beliefs and for them to be able to practise their beliefs in peace and security.”

The British Government even recently appointed its first Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief with Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, a former minister, filling the post. According to the government, the role “will promote the UK’s firm stance on religious tolerance abroad, helping to tackle religious discrimination in countries where minority faith groups face persecution”.

Prime Minister May said she looked “forward to supporting [Lord Ahmad] in this new role as he works with faith groups and governments across the world to raise understanding of religious persecution and what we can do to eliminate it.”

Perhaps the UK should not be so quick to preach to others, when it does not appear to be doing much at home to help Syrian Christians, who have been among the most persecuted for their faith since the civil war in Syria began seven years ago:

According to information obtained from the UK Home Office by the Barnabas Fund, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), during the first quarter of 2018, recommended 1,358 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK, of which only four refugees were Christians (no Yazidis were recommended). The Home Office agreed to resettle 1,112 of these refugees, all of whom were Muslims, and refused to accept the Christians.

This decision was made despite the fact that approximately 10% of the pre-2011 population of Syria was Christian – a number that has reportedly fallen to 5%. There were also an estimated 70,000 Yazidis in Syria. Yazidis, with Christians, were among the groups most viciously targeted by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In 2017, moreover, according to the Barnabas Fund, the UNHCR recommended 7,060 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK, of whom only 25 were Christians and seven were Yazidis. The Home Office ended up accepting 4,850 Syrian refugees – of whom only 11 were Christians.

While the UK appears to favor Muslim refugees over Christian ones, the fault does not lie with the UK alone. Lord David Alton of Liverpool, a life peer in the House of Lords, wrote in a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid:

“There is widespread belief, justified or not, among the religious minorities of Syria that the UNHCR is biased against them. The UK has a legal obligation to ensure it does not turn a blind eye to either direct or indirect perceived discrimination by the UN.

“It is widely accepted that Christians, who constituted around 10 per cent of Syria’s pre-war population, were specifically targeted by jihadi rebels and continue to be at risk.

“…As last year’s statistics more than amply demonstrate, this is not a statistical blip. It shows a pattern of discrimination that the Government has a legal duty to take concrete steps to address.”

There certainly does appear to be “a pattern of discrimination” that has been ongoing since at least 2015. According to the Barnabas Fund, the UNHCR, in 2016, recommended 7,499 refugees to the UK, of whom only 27 were Christians and five were Yazidis. In 2015, out of 2,637 recommended refugees, 43 were Christians and 13 were Yazidis.

In December 2016, Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute, asked the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees at the time, António Guterres, to explain the disproportionately low number of Syrian Christians resettled abroad by the UN. “Mr. Guterres said that generally Syria’s Christians should not be resettled, because they are part of the ‘DNA of the Middle East,'” writes Shea.

Guterres’ statement was a blunt admission of the UN’s apparent disregard for Christian lives, not least because only 9 months earlier, in March 2016, US Secretary of State John Kerry had said, “(ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims”. The UN itself stated in September 2005:

“[A]t the United Nations World Summit, all Member States formally accepted the responsibility of each State to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. that all member states had accepted “the responsibility of each State to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity… world leaders also agreed that when any State fails to meet that responsibility, all States (the “international community”) are responsible for helping to protect people threatened with such crimes.”.

The apparent discrimination against Christians by the United Kingdom and the UNHCR is all the more disturbing in light of studies that find Christians to be the most persecuted faith in the world. Christians are “the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecution globally”, according to a 2017 study by the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture, the Religious Freedom Institute and Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Research Project. In June, the ninth annual Pew Research Center report on global religious restrictions also found that Christianity was still the world’s most persecuted faith, with Christians being harassed in more countries (144) than any other group.

In light of these facts, it would certainly appear, as Lord Alton states in his letter, that the UK has indeed been “turning a blind eye” to the plight of Christian (and Yazidi) refugees for several years. Now that May has announced that her government stands with persecuted Christians all over the world, the question remains: What specific initiatives, other than empty words, does the UK government aim to take to rectify the damage that has already been done and to prevent further damage?

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We have seen this in the past and there are two major errors that lead to this kind of conduct: 1. Raising a pastor up to be a CEO Superstar type of figure who becomes immune to oversight. 2. Errant non-Biblical teaching. If a church is following Biblical teaching and guided by the Holy Spirit in all that it does this would not happen!

from The New York Times:

SOUTH BARRINGTON, Ill. — After the pain of watching her marriage fall apart, Pat Baranowski felt that God was suddenly showering her with blessings.

She had a new job at her Chicago-area megachurch, led by a dynamic young pastor named the Rev. Bill Hybels, who in the 1980s was becoming one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the country.

The pay at Willow Creek Community Church was much lower than at her old job, but Ms. Baranowski, then 32, admired Mr. Hybels and the church’s mission so much that it seemed worth it. She felt even more blessed when in 1985 Mr. Hybels and his wife invited her to move into their home, where she shared family dinners and vacations.

Once, while Mr. Hybels’s wife, Lynne, and their children were away, the pastor took Ms. Baranowski out for dinner. When they got home, Mr. Hybels offered her a back rub in front of the fireplace and told her to lie face down.

Stunned, she remembered feeling unable to say no to her boss and pastor as he straddled her, unhooked her bra and touched her near her breasts. She remembered feeling his hands shake.

That first back rub in 1986 led to multiple occasions over nearly two years in which he fondled her breasts and rubbed against her. The incidents later escalated to one occasion of oral sex. Ms. Baranowski said she was mortified and determined to stay silent.

“I really did not want to hurt the church,” said Ms. Baranowski, who is now 65, speaking publicly for the first time. “I felt like if this was exposed, this fantastic place would blow up, and I loved the church. I loved the people there. I loved the family. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. And I was ashamed.”

Mr. Hybels denied her allegations about her time working and living with him. “I never had an inappropriate physical or emotional relationship with her before that time, during that time or after that time,” he said in an email.

Since the #MeToo movement emerged last year, evangelical churches have been grappling with allegations of sexual abuse by their pastors. A wave of accusations has begun to hit evangelical institutions, bringing down figures like the Rev. Andy Savage, at Highpoint Church in Memphis, and the Rev. Harry L. Thomas, the founder of the Creation Festival, a Christian music event.

Ms. Baranowski is not the first to accuse Mr. Hybels of wrongdoing, though her charges are more serious than what has been reported before.

In March, The Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today reported that Mr. Hybels had been accused by several other women, including co-workers and a congregant, of inappropriate behavior that dated back decades. The allegations included lingering hugs, invitations to hotel rooms, comments about looks and an unwanted kiss.

The accusations did not immediately result in consequences for Mr. Hybels. At a churchwide meeting where Mr. Hybels denied the allegations, he received a standing ovation from the congregation.

The church’s elders conducted their own investigation of the allegations when they first surfaced four years ago and commissioned a second inquiry by an outside lawyer, completed in 2017. Both investigations cleared Mr. Hybels, though the church’s two lead pastors have since issued public apologies, saying that they believe the women.

In April, Mr. Hybels announced to the congregation he would accelerate his planned retirement by six months and step aside immediately for the good of the church. He continued to deny the allegations, but acknowledged, “I too often placed myself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid.” The congregation let out a disappointed groan. Some shouted “No!”

On Sunday, one of the church’s two top pastors severed his ties with Willow Creek. After services, the Rev. Steve Carterannounced that he was resigning immediately in response to Ms. Baranowski’s “horrifying” allegations about Mr. Hybels.

Mr. Carter said he had a “fundamental difference” with the church’s elders over how they had handled the allegations against Mr. Hybels, and had been planning to resign for some time.

Mr. Carter did not appear as scheduled at Sunday services at the church’s main campus, and the congregation at the second service was told that he was so sick that he was vomiting backstage.

No mention was made of Mr. Hybels or the allegations against him at either service at the main campus.

In many evangelical churches, a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests, making accusations of harassment particularly difficult to confront. Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ, giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.

In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru who discovered the formula for bringing to church people who were skeptical of Christianity. His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.

Mr. Hybels built a church independent of any denomination. In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable. Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.

But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches.

“So many victims within the evangelical world stay silent because they feel, if they step forward, they’ll damage this man’s ministry, and God won’t be able to accomplish the things he’s doing through this man,” said Boz Tchividjian, a former sex crimes prosecutor who leads GRACE, an organization that works with victims of abuse in Christian institutions.

“Those leaders feel almost invincible,” said Mr. Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham who has consulted with some former staff members accusing Mr. Hybels of wrongdoing. “They don’t feel like the rules apply to them, because they’re doing great things for Jesus, even though their behavior doesn’t reflect Jesus at all.”

A Sign

In 1984, Ms. Baranowski was walking to her car in the vast parking lot of Willow Creek one night after services. She had just been praying about whether to apply for a job at the church she saw posted.

Suddenly a car screeched to a stop beside her, and the driver rolled down his window. It was the church’s pastor.

“Could I drive you to your car or something?” offered Mr. Hybels, who was then 33. Her car was nearby, but she accepted the ride.

It seemed like a sign from God.

Mr. Hybels later also described the meeting as a miracle: He had been driving out of the parking lot when God urged him to go back and find the woman he drove by.

“That night I had no idea how offering help to a person who probably didn’t need it would affect my life and ministry,” he wrote in one of his first books.

Soon after, she left her position as a computer systems manager. She found great purpose in working for a church that was adding more than 1,000 new members a year. She served as Mr. Hybels’s gatekeeper, fielding calls from pastors across the country eager to tap him for advice.

“It was a wonderful time,” she said. “I thought maybe God was just being good to me, and I think he was. But I couldn’t understand: Why did he select me? Because I didn’t think that highly of myself.”

Ms. Baranowski kept handwritten notes she received from Mr. Hybels. In one, Mr. Hybels praised her work and said, “I am praying that your new small group” at church “will be a source of much happiness and strength in your life.” Then he added, “P.S. Plus, you are a knockout!”

Mr. Hybels was regarded as a maverick in the evangelical world for giving women leadership positions.

Nancy Beach, who joined the staff soon after Ms. Baranowski, said the work was exhilarating.

“We were at the center of this grand adventure,” said Ms. Beach, the first woman appointed by Mr. Hybels to be a “teaching pastor,” meaning she could preach at services.

Ms. Beach recalled that Mr. Hybels was an exacting boss who got angry if the sound system was fuzzy or if a Christmas drama wasn’t performed smoothly. And he didn’t tolerate personal misconduct. After one staff member had an affair and another was discovered with pornography, she said, “They had to speak publicly to everyone affected. They lost their jobs.”

Ms. Beach is among the women who have recently come forward in articles accusing Mr. Hybels of harassment. She said that on a work trip to Spain in 1999, he invited her to his hotel room and gave her a long hug that made her feel uncomfortable.

She didn’t speak up until recently, when she heard there were other women with similar experiences.

“That’s what makes some of this so confusing, because he has been a champion for women,” said Ms. Beach, who has since left Willow but still preaches widely.

‘Humiliated, Guilty and Ashamed’

In the late 1980s, crusading against pornography was a top priority for evangelicals. Mr. Hybels told Ms. Baranowski that he had been told to educate himself on the issue by James Dobson, founder of the ministry Focus on the Family, who had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan to an anti-pornography commission.

Calling it research, Mr. Hybels once instructed Ms. Baranowski to go out and rent several pornographic videos, she said, to her great embarrassment. He insisted on watching them with her, she said, while he was dressed in a bathrobe.

One night, she said, Mr. Hybels felt too sick to go to a church event, so he sent his wife in his stead to introduce the guest speaker, a famous evangelist from India. He asked Ms. Baranowski to bring him something to eat, and fondled her again, she said.

Ms. Baranowski said that during the years of harassment, Mr. Hybels never kissed her, and they never had intercourse. She was particularly ashamed about the oral sex. She grew increasingly wracked by guilt and tried to talk with him. One day in his office, she told him that it was unfair to his wife, that it was sin, and that she felt humiliated.

That night she recorded in her journal what he had said in response: “It’s not a big deal. Why can’t you just get over it? You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

His attitude toward her slowly began to change, she said. She moved out of the house after two years. In the office, he began to suggest she was incompetent and unstable. He berated her work in front of others. She grew depressed and poured out her feelings to God, filling 20 spiral-bound journals.

On May 11, 1989, she wrote, “I feel like an abused wife.”

She feared that she would be forced to stand in front of the congregation and confess, like the other employees who were fired. She was relocated to work in a converted coat closet.

Mr. Hybels finally sketched out an exit plan for her on a piece of note paper, which she kept. She resigned from Willow after more than eight years.

Mr. Hybels said in an email last week that Ms. Baranowski had “wanted a bigger challenge than being my assistant” and changed jobs “on good terms.”

She saw a counselor, who said in an interview that she remembered only that Ms. Baranowski was “humiliated, guilty and ashamed” because of her relationship with Mr. Hybels. The counselor, who spoke with Ms. Baranowski’s permission, requested anonymity because she did not want to be part of the controversy.

She recalled of Ms. Baranowski, “She felt she had lost her connection to God.”

Since leaving the church, Ms. Baranowski said she has struggled to keep a job, lost her condominium, moved from state to state, and had migraines and panic attacks.

“I carried Bill’s responsibility, for things he should have been responsible for,” she said.

Ms. Baranowski told only one friend, the Rev. Don Cousins, about one month after she left the Willow staff. She begged him to stay silent, and he did, until now.

The entanglement with Mr. Hybels “altered the trajectory of her life,” said Mr. Cousins, a well-known evangelical leader who worked at Willow for 17 years.

“She had been a very high-performing person, committed, high-caliber, responsible,” said Mr. Cousins, now a pastor in Orlando, Fla. “And the church was her life.”

Mr. Hybels went on to expand Willow to eight sites with 25,000 worshipers. He published more than 50 books, many on ethics, like “Who Are You When No One’s Looking.”

He was a spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton and stuck with him through his impeachment. He drew speakers like Colin Powell, Bono and Sheryl Sandberg to his annual Global Leadership Summit, which has continued and will be held later this week.

When news of the other allegations against Mr. Hybels broke, Mr. Cousins encouraged Ms. Baranowski to get in touch with Ms. Beach. The two women had a tearful reunion. Both wish they had confronted Mr. Hybels at the time so they could have spared other women from harassment.

Ms. Beach remembers traveling to 27 countries representing Willow Creek and hearing pastors say hundreds of times that they owed their churches’ success to Mr. Hybels.

“How could he have done all this good,” she asked, “when there were such dark things happening behind the scenes?”

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From Yahoo:

Vatican-backed family rally to have speech on welcoming gays

 An international family rally the Catholic Church is hosting in Ireland will feature workshops on hot-button issues facing Catholic families, including protecting children from clergy sexual abuse, weathering divorce and ministering to lesbian and gay faithful.

Pope Francis will join the Aug. 21-26 World Meeting of Families for the last two days and preside over the final Mass in Dublin.

Organizers on Monday unveiled the pastoral program leading up to Francis’ arrival, and it includes some surprising entries. Perhaps none is more surprising than the inclusion of the Rev. James Martin, an American Jesuit scheduled to deliver a presentation on welcoming LGBT Catholics and their families into parishes.

Martin, author of “Building a Bridge,” about Catholic outreach to the LGBT community, has had several talks canceled in the United States in recent months because of pressure from conservative groups who oppose his call for the church to better accompany gay Catholics.

Martin told The Associated Press it was “immensely significant” that a Vatican-backed meeting would include his presentation, saying it showed “that LGBT Catholics and their parents are an important part of our church.”

“The message from the Vatican to LGBT Catholics is this: you belong,” he said.

Martin recalled that during the previous World Meeting of Families, held in Philadelphia in 2015, the only official event about gay Catholics featured a gay man and his mother speaking about chastity.

Martin’s talk is not the only meeting event indicating that organizers were keen to follow Francis’ lead and reach out to some of the most marginalized Catholics. Other workshops are on Catholics suffering from addiction and domestic violence, coping with family members in prison and homelessness.

Others are perhaps addressed to a broader audience: how to find time to pray in a digital age, women in leadership, teenagers in the digital world.

One of the major panels is on child protection, and features the pope’s top adviser on sexual abuse prevention, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Joining him is Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of abuse who resigned from O’Malley’s panel last year in frustration over the Vatican’s resistance to listening to victims.

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These ravening wolves are never satisfied even as many of their followers are living paycheck to paycheck!

from Fox News:

Louisiana-based televangelist is asking his followers to donate money for a $54 million jet that can “go anywhere in the world in one stop,” The Times-Picayune reported.

Jesse Duplantis, 68, a Christian minister based in Destrehan, about 25 miles east of New Orleans, says his ministry has paid cash for three private jets.

“You know I’ve owned three different jets in my life and used them and used them and just burning them up for the Lord,” Duplantis says in a video posted to his ministries’ website.

Duplantis is now reportedly seeking the funds for a Dassault Falcon 7X, worth $54 million.

The problem with the previous jets, he says, is that they require multiple stops to refuel. But flying the Falcon 7X, Duplantis says, will allow him to save money and not pay “those exorbitant prices with jet fuel all over the world.”

“I really believe that if Jesus was physically on the earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey,” Duplantis says in the video, “He’d be in an airplane preaching the gospel all over the world.”

Duplantis’ video comes after another televangelist, Kenneth Copeland in Texas, purchased the Gulfstream V jet for $36 million.

Both televangelists defended their use of private jets during a joint appearance on Copeland’s program, saying that commercial airlines filled with “a bunch of demons” that get in the way of their busy schedules.

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from abcnews go:

A California family has been fined for holding weekly Bible studies in their home, meetings that are allegedly in violation of the city’s zoning regulations.

Stephanie and Chuck Fromm have been living in their San Juan Capistrano home for 18 years and were shocked when they received a notice of violation from the city. They have already been fined $300 and have been told they will be fined an additional $500 per meeting if they continue to meet without a Conditional Use Permit.

But they’re not backing down.

“Nobody should be able to tell us what we can do in our home,” Stephanie Fromm said. “Since when do we have to qualify who we have at our house and what we’re doing?”

The Fromms regularly host 40 to 50 friends and family members at their home from 10 a.m. to noon on Sundays for Bible studies. They don’t think noise or traffic issues are to blame for the citation. There is no music, and the meetings, they say, are largely “contemplative.”

Many who attend the Bible study drive to the house together, so there are many fewer cars than people, the Fromms say. They only have one next-door neighbor, and the space on the other side of their house is more than six acres of empty land.

They say one disgruntled neighbor has set off the entire situation, while the rest of the neighborhood has no problem with the meetings and are supportive of the family.

“We have a neighbor that’s cross at us and contacted the zoning department,” Chuck Fromm said. “It feels sort of like a snitch system. There’s no due process. It’s arbitrary. We’re reasonable, rational people but we don’t have a reasonable, rational system.”

An attorney from the Pacific Justice Institute, a national organization that provides volunteer attorneys in battles to defend religious freedom, is representing the Fromms.

“It’s a huge abridgement to personal freedom, to privacy and to religious liberty,” said Brad Dacus, the couple’s attorney. “An individual’s home is probably the most revered in terms of an individual’s right to gather, to pray and to exercise their religion, particularly with their friends and family.”

Millions of Americans regularly gather at Bible studies, a tradition dating far back into American history, Dacus pointed out.

“If this Bible study is not allowed—if they’re not allowed to exercise their rights under the First Amendment—then the floodgates will be open wide for every Bible study in the country to potentially be on the chopping block by their local government,” Dacus said.

The ordinance in question identified “religious, fraternal, or nonprofit organizations as uses which require approval of a conditional use permit,” said Dacus. This would include organizations like the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, continued Dacus, adding that the vagueness of the word “fraternal” could even include groups who meet weekly to watch Sunday Night Football.

“It’s an overabuse of authority and discretion for any local government to say a family like the Fromms must pay money to the city and get their prior consent to engage in such a fundamentally traditional use of their own home,” Dacus said.

The San Juan Capistrano City Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.

But, for now, Chuck Fromm is clear about his plan: “We’ll meet and they can charge us.” Both he and Dacus say they are willing to do whatever it takes to fight this problem.

“The Pacific Justice Institute is committed to taking this all the way to the Supreme Court, if need be, not just for the Fromms, but for every other family in the United States looking to exercise the same freedom,” Dacus said.

And Stephanie Fromm, who her husband describes as “a real host with the most,” said she just wants to host her loved ones for Bible studies in her home without worrying about being fined or interrogated.

“We’re not pot-stirrers. We are surprised and sad,” she said. “It just doesn’t make our city look like the community that we came into to raise our children. We love our community. We will stand up for our faith and for the use of our home.”

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