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The ‘Clergified' Church

QUOTE: "We have to recognize that we've created the system that we loathe. I don't think the reason 15 percent serve is because 85 percent are lazy. We've created a system that glorifies the clergy and marginalized the laity. We got the outcome we created programs for. We've become ‘clergified.' There's a three-tiered structure: laypeople, clergy and missionaries. ... All religions tend to create a class of people who are above others so 1) they can revel in that and 2) the rest of us can say it's their job. Christianity was started without any of those structures, and ended up like so many false religions do when they create a ministry caste structure. When we see real movements of God take off, they happen when people are free." -Lifeway Research director Ed Stetzer [, 2/09]


Arrested for Life

A California pro-life pastor is currently serving a 30-day jail term and awaits further sentencing after being arrested for offering sidewalk counseling at an Oakland, Calif., abortion clinic. Walter B. Hoye II, pastor of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in Berkley, Calif., and founder of Issues4Life Foundation, was convicted last month of "unlawful approach" under an Oakland city ordinance that bars picketers from coming within eight feet of women entering an abortion clinic.

Hoye was originally sentenced to 30 days in jail, a $1,130 fine and three years probation. A further sentence, scheduled for March 20 because of a legality, however, could increase that to up to two years in prison and $4,000 in fines.


Smells Like Teen Spirit

If the teens in your church don't seem to care what you have to say, here's a possible reason why: A survey from Junior Achievement and pollster Deloitte found that a mere 3 percent see pastors and members of the clergy as role models. A slight majority of the under-18 crowd (54 percent) looks up to parents as role models, yet pastors were ranked lower than friends, teachers, coaches and siblings as those deemed worthy of emulating.

The survey, which provides a fascinating look at the current teen generation's moral compass, also found that although 80 percent feel equipped to make moral decisions in the business world, 40 percent believe they'll have to "break the rules" to succeed in life. Another 46 percent think lying to a parent is sometimes acceptable. In addition, a staggering 86 percent feel more accountable to themselves than to parents or guardians (52 percent), friends (41 percent) or society (33 percent).


Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

Arkansas' Senate will soon vote on a bill that would allow churches to decide whether worshipers could bring weapons into church. Last Wednesday, the bill passed in the state's House by a 57-42 vote, which prompted concern from many church leaders.

"I believe it would disturb the sanctity and tranquility of church," said John Phillips, a pastor who was shot 23 years ago as he concluded a service at his Little Rock church. "Do you want ushers to stop you at the door and frisk you? ... People are not going to react the way they think they're going to react in the heat of the moment. It was utter chaos when I was shot."

Current Arkansas law allows those with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns anywhere except houses of worship and bars. The current bill, proposed by Rep. Beverly Pyle in response to the numerous church shootings around the country in recent years, would give churches the final decision on whether to allow members to carry arms into their sanctuaries.

"It is time we changed our concealed-handgun law to allow law-abiding citizens of the state of Arkansas the right to defend themselves and others should a situation happen in one of our churches," Pyle argued.

For many pastors and government watchdog groups alike, however, the main issue isn't one of churches protecting themselves against guns but instead against government infringement.

"It's not about gun rights, it's about church rights," said Nathan Petty, who leads Beech Grove Baptist Church in Fordyce. "Is it right for the state to make that decision for the church?"

Added Grant Exton, executive director of the Arkansas Concealed Carry Association: "It's a problem of (the government) telling churches what to do in an area of moral issue, where that should be none of their business." According to Exton, of the 48 states that currently allow concealed weapons to be carried, 42 place the decision with individual churches. "We have the government in an area that it shouldn't be." [AP, 2/12/09, 2/14/09]


It’s the End of the World As We Know It

QUOTE: "We're looking at the end of human history. That our generation is the generation that precedes the return of Christ, what a privilege, what a responsibility to share the gospel with the world in this generation. ... The world is crumbling, isn't it? And it's unraveling. And I don't think it's going to get better. I think superficially, maybe, but it's not really going to get better-not if what we're experiencing is the judgment of God, which I believe it is. ... We need to encourage each other and strengthen each other and pray for each other. It's going to take us [working] together to withstand the onslaught of the enemy in order to lift up Jesus in these last days." -Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of renowned evangelist Billy Graham and president of AnGeL Ministries, speaking to ministry leaders at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tenn. [, 2/12/09]


More ‘Marginalization’ of English Christians

Almost two-thirds of leaders within the Church of England believe that British Christians face discrimination at work because of their faith. An additional 60 percent say the deterioration of religious rights has occurred over the last decade under the United Kingdom's socialist-leaning Labour Party.

"What we are witnessing on a monthly, if not weekly basis here in the U.K. is a strategic, highly politicized marginalization of Christianity in the public arena," said Paul Eddy, a member of the diocese in Winchester.

Leaders from various sectors of the Anglican church met last week in London to discuss, among other things, the rapidly changing culture that is suppressing religious liberties among Christians. After admonishing the group not to "allow ourselves to be marginalized," Nezlin Sterling, the general secretary of the New Testament Assembly, warned, "I am of the belief that we in the church are so anxious to be politically correct that we on occasions forget to reflect on whether our actions are Christ-correct."

The survey comes on the heels of two high-profile cases in England in which a community nurse and a school receptionist both faced disciplinary action for involving prayer while on the job. Late last year, veteran nurse Caroline Petrie was suspended for offering to pray for an elderly patient. After almost two months, hospital officials reinstated Petrie two weeks ago, adding that nurses did not have to "set aside their faith" in the workplace.

That hasn't been the case for Jennie Cain, however. A receptionist at her daughter's elementary school, Cain sent a personal e-mail to 10 friends asking for prayer after her 5-year-old daughter was reprimanded for talking to a classmate about God and heaven during class. When the e-mail found its way to the school's headmaster, Cain was promptly suspended while officials launched an investigation into her actions. [, 2/13-15/09;, 2/7/09]


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