Americans' Confused Religious Beliefs
Compiled By Eric Tiansay
A new survey has revealed that Americans have jumbled religious beliefs. According to the second annual Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey, released in March, 75 percent of 2,000 people interviewed said that they believed many religions could lead to heaven, including 61 percent of those who said they had a high personal religious commitment.
Only 18 percent of the total survey--which noted "strong expressions of religious inclusiveness"--thought their own religion was the "one true faith." Even 48 percent of "highly committed white evangelical Protestants" thought many religions could lead to heaven.
"It does not seem to line up with many of the public statements of evangelicalism, but perhaps there's just a softer feeling underlying that," research leader Melissa Rogers observed. E. J. Dionne Jr., who helped oversee the survey, said that the findings were "very striking. For many Americans, there's a desire to be simultaneously religious and tolerant."
The study also found that 67 percent consider the United States to be a "Christian nation," 58 percent believe that America's strength is based on religious faith, and 47 percent feel that a belief in God is needed for someone to be moral.
Source: Religion News Service
'Pastors Have 'Rewarding Profession'
A recent study of U.S. clergy discovered that 7 in 10 have never considered leaving the profession--dispelling the long-held belief that pastors experience burnout. The optimistic data comes from the "Pulpit and Pew" research project at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C.
"We were surprised that so many clergy were satisfied with their career choice and so few doubted their call," said the Rev. Jackson Carroll, the project's director. Assemblies of God General Superintendent Thomas Trask said the findings show that pastors feel God is their employer. "They have the best boss in all the world."
The survey found that 6 in 10 clergy "never doubted" their call from God. Seven in 10 pastors also said their greatest challenge is the "difficulty of reaching people with the gospel." "There's a lot of frustration about working in ministry, but overall it is a very rewarding profession," Carroll said, comparing clergy satisfaction rates to teaching, social work, law and medicine.
Completed last December, the massive four-year pastoral leadership project involved 20 areas of study, 30 researchers and a $3.5 million budget. The findings came from surveying 3,400 Protestant, Catholic and other clergy regarding various topics, including salaries, recruitment and firings.
Source: The Washington Times
'Trash TV' Effort Enlists Parents
A pro-family group is not looking for another "Million Man March," but its latest campaign against sex, violence and profanity on television aims to mobilize at least 1 million parents. Earlier this year, the American Family Association (AFA) launched OneMillionMoms.com and OneMillionDads.com, "a place where you can exert major influence on TV program content." AFA officials believe the effort is a tool "in the fight for the future of their children."
Participants receive a weekly e-mail, featuring a review of the program and its sponsor's e-mail address. "What can we do to change TV?" AFA president Donald Wildmon asked. "We can focus on the sponsors. They are the key."
Source: Charisma News Service
From ADAM to EVE
"You know you're the only one for me!"
"Do you come here often?"
"Trust me, this was meant to be!"
"Look around, all the other guys around here are animals!"
"I already feel like you're a part of me!"
"Honey, you were made for me!"
"Why don't you come over to my place and we can name some animals?"
"You're the girl of my dreams!" (See Gen. 2:21)
"I like a girl who doesn't mind being ribbed!"
"You're the apple of my eye!"
Pastor Takes 'Higher Calling'
A Florida preacher literally got a higher calling this spring--delivering his sermon from a pitched roof to a crowd of 150. In an effort to improve attendance, Ben Baucom, 39, preached to his congregation from the roof at Largo First Church of the Nazarene.
"Now I know a lot of you are here to see the pastor on the roof," said Baucom, a former professional roofer. "But Lord, help us to catch fire and snatch souls from hell. The world needs to know the church is on fire. Say amen!" "Amen," the church members responded.
Baucom has tried other means to improve attendance, including kissing a female frog and shaving half his mustache. In March, he proposed another challenge: If 120 people came to the next service, he would preach from the rooftop. Terry Thomas, 60, of Largo, had a tongue-in-cheek complaint: "It was a great message, but it was over my head."
Source: The St. Petersburg Times
Crimes Tied to Church Pledge
A Kansas City, Mo., pharmacist accused of diluting cancer drugs to make more money told the FBI that he was trying to fulfill a $1 million pledge to his church. Robert Courtney pleaded guilty in February to 20 federal counts of tampering and adulterating or misbranding chemotherapy drugs, which carries a maximum 30-year sentence.
"Why did I commit these inordinate crimes, so profoundly inconsistent with my faith, with my beliefs and my relationship with my Lord and Savior?" Courtney, 49, read from a statement at his plea hearing. "I've uncovered in my daily devotions...no rational explanation for this conduct."
Courtney, who confessed to watering down medications 158 times for 34 patients, also told authorities that he was trying to pay off a $600,000 tax bill.
Source: The Associated Press, The Kansas City Star
'All Saved' Gospel Denounced
Three leading black Pentecostal pastors denounced Tulsa, Okla., preacher Carlton Pearson's "Gospel of Inclusion," which questions the existence of a literal hell and espouses that everyone is already saved.
Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, issued a statement in March after Charisma News Service (CNS) reported Pearson saying that Jakes was somewhat familiar with his theology, as were Bishop Charles Blake, pastor of West Angeles (California) Church of God in Christ (COGIC), and Bishop G.E. Patterson, COGIC's national head. Jakes said he repudiates Pearson's views as heresy. Blake and Patterson also dismissed "any knowledge or support of Pearson's doctrine."
Pearson had told CNS: "These are my friends...They're not bothered by this." But in his statement, Jakes said he "emphatically and unequivocally" repudiated inclusionism as "heresy." In a joint statement, Blake and Patterson added: "Neither of us has communicated in any way with Bishop Pearson regarding these controversial doctrines."
Jakes noted that he believes in a literal hell and no one is "automatically saved." Blake and Patterson added: "We believe that those who die in an unsaved state will experience the horrible agony of hell as described in the Bible." Pearson told CNS that he apologized to Jakes, Blake and Patterson. "I wanted to absolve them from anything that I am teaching," Pearson said.
Source: Charisma News Service
'Sharing Hope' With Slaves
After visiting one of the worst brothels in the world in 1998, former Congresswoman Linda Smith felt compelled by the Lord to start Shared Hope International (SHI), a nonprofit organization with a mission of rescuing and restoring victims of sex trafficking.
"We are compelled by Matthew 25:40, which says, '"Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me,"'" Smith said. "One of the most important things we share with the women and children we rescue is that they have individual value and equal worth in God's eyes. Believing in and receiving God's love for them is the first step in the healing process."
The organization partners with groups worldwide to prevent trafficking of individuals, and supplies shelter, health care, education and vocational training opportunities to victims of modern slavery. In just a little more than three years, SHI has opened 19 homes throughout India, Nepal and Jamaica, with the capacity to serve more than 300 women and children. As many as 2 million women, including girls as young as 6, are trafficked internationally in approximately 190 countries.
Source: Charisma News Service
'Best Preacher Ever' Dies
Revered as the "pope" of the Southern Baptist Convention, Willie Amos Criswell died in January at 92. The pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Dallas began preaching more than 70 years ago. "Our loss is heaven's gain," said Billy Graham, who called Criswell "the best preacher he ever heard anywhere."
For more than a year, Criswell had been in frail health and had been hospitalized several times for digestive and cardiac problems. During his tenure, Criswell became "one of the best-known pastors in all of Christendom, and his church became a magnet for the politically powerful and the less influential," The Dallas Morning News observed.
"All I ever wanted to be, in all my life, was a pastor," the Oklahoma native told his congregation after recovering from a heart attack in 1980. "...The Lord has been good to me."
Source: The Dallas Morning News
'Good News' Bikes Mobilize Pastors
The rubber has met the road as far as spreading the gospel in Cuba. Missionary lay pastors in one of the world's last communist countries were recently blessed with the donation of 402 16-speed mountain bikes.
"A pastor on foot can go to one mission," said Bishop Ricardo Pereira Diaz of Cuba's Methodist Church. "One with a bicycle can go to two or three missions. Those bicycles are like a seed, a seed that will bear much fruit, and we will have many missions as a result of that."
Methodists worldwide gave $40,000 for the bikes, which were bought in Cuba in December. Nicknamed "EvangeBicy," the program is derived from the three-wheel "bicytaxis" common on the Caribbean island. "In Cuba, most classes of people cannot afford a car," Diaz said. "Bicycles are one of the main means of transportation."
Source: United Methodist News Service
Pastor 'Inspires' Political Christians
Bill Revoir believes Christians should not just debate politics. The pastor of Faith Victory Church, a nondenominational charismatic church in a Detroit suburb, Revoir has a strong conviction that more believers should be involved in political office, citing Proverbs 29:2 that says, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice."
"I believe God has opened this door of opportunity to me...to inspire [Christians] to get involved in their local government and communities for the gospel's sake," said Revoir, 47.
Last year Revoir ran for county commissioner and won. As one of 25 commissioners who represent Macomb County, he seeks God's guidance in making decisions that affect some 780,000 people. Revoir said: "They all know that I am a minister, and I have had some opportunities to let my light shine."
Source: Charisma News Service
Church Welcomes 'Bible-Based Graffiti'
The pastor of a fast growing Sparks, Nev., congregation encouraged his flock to do "Bible-based graffiti" in April. After Easter service at their temporary home in a local YMCA, members of Summit Christian Church (SCC) went to the construction site of their new church, where they wrote Bible verses and personal testaments on the wooden skeleton walls of the 15,000-square-foot building.
"One of the things that is very important to us is to base everything out of the Bible," pastor Steven Bond said. "So we thought that it would be a really cool thing to put Scripture on the walls before they are sealed up. This way, the Bible is stuck into the fabric of the building."
Bond hopes to open the $4.5 million church this summer. Started three years ago, SCC's Sunday service now attracts more than 1,000 people.
Source: The Reno Gazette-Journal
Clergy Housing Alowance Defended
Ministries, denominations and lawmakers are rallying to defend the clergy housing allowance, which has come under legal scrutiny that could cost millions of dollars and have a "devastating" effect on their work. They are concerned over a long-standing tax break given to ministers, without which some pastors could not make ends meet.
In May, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the Clergy Housing Allowance Clarification Act (CHACA), which was also passed without opposition by the House in April. President Bush is expected to sign it into law.
The congressional measure was meant to head off an appeals court, which is threatening to strike down the 80-year-old clergy allowance as unconstitutional.
At press time, the court had not yet ruled on the issue, which involves Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and his challenge of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
"I'm grateful the Senate leadership responded so quickly to my request for expedited consideration of this critical legislation," said Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., CHACA's sponsor. "One misguided court is literally trying to tax our clergy out of house and home."
Since 1921, clergy have been able to deduct from taxes a portion of their income for housing--a provision that is credited for helping small churches afford a full-time pastor. Abolition of the allowance would result in clergy paying approximately $2.3 billion in taxes during the next five years.
The appeals court move follows a four-year fight with the IRS by Warren, well-known for his "Purpose-Driven" teaching on church growth. In 1996, he challenged an IRS agent's assessment of his new home that valued it below its true worth, eliminating part of Warren's housing allowance.
In a letter to other pastors urging them to help defend the allowance, Warren said the agent made a value assessment without even seeing the property. Warren said that he was told other IRS agents had "bullied" ministers for years and that he took on the IRS "to protect small church pastors from similar abuse."
Although the IRS offered to settle with Warren if he would drop the case, he continued with it--eventually spending twice the amount of the disputed assessment in legal fees--to force tax officials to admit there was no standard for determining a property's fair market rental value. Warren said that it was amazing that while the IRS had not questioned the constitutionality of the allowance, the appeals court took up the issue.
Source: The Washington Times
Michael Green Becomes Senior Pastor
Michael Green preached his first message in early March as the senior pastor of Faith Church in New Orleans, taking over for his father, Charles Green. Already co-pastor of the congregation, Green, 47, also had served as worship leader, soloist and speaker in the church started by his father in 1953.
Married since 1984, Michael and wife, Linda, have two boys. Church officials said Charles Green, 76, stepped down as senior pastor to mentor other church leaders and lead the missions ministry. "Dad will be doing a lot of foreign and home missions work," Green said. "He will be ministering to ministers, traveling and writing."
Source: Faith Church