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War of the Boards

In late October an atheist group in London responded to a Christian evangelism conference’s bus ads by blitzing the city with anti-God billboard ads. This Christmas season in the United States, Christians and atheists across the country are primed to stage a similar billboard war of beliefs. The American Humanist Association is sponsoring ads across the country—predominantly in major cities—throughout the holiday season that ask, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.” The organization hopes to install similar billboards in 46 states as part of its “Godless Holiday Campaign.” And starting this week in at least two Colorado cities, a network of atheist, humanist and “freethinking” organizations is running billboards that read: “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”

“We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you,” said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the American Humanist Association. “Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.”
In response, various Christian organizations have vowed to reply with billboards of their own. [AP, 11/12/08;, 11/12/08] read more

Out With the New, in With the ... Old?

October may be marked as "Pastor Appreciation Month," but Robert A. Schuller likely isn't feeling the love this week. On Saturday, the senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, Calif., was ousted from the church's long-running television show, Hour of Power, by his own father, Robert H. Schuller, who founded the renowned megachurch and handed over his ministry to his son in 2006. Though the younger Schuller will continue to lead the congregation, his dismissal from the show stemmed from a disagreement about expanding the show beyond a single personality and including other guest speakers. "The real minister's name that we honor is Jesus, not Schuller," said the elder during Sunday's service, adding that he hoped Hour of Power would continue to air "for decades, centuries to come. Because of that, we don't want one face ... to be a spokesman." Although Robert A. Schuller believed he could carry the show alone, he was overruled by both his father and the church's board of directors—a decision which has strained the father-son relationship. "We're trying to do the best we can and bring about a deeper reconciliation," said one church associate. "[Their relationship] is not irreparable, but it's gone through some difficult days." [, 10/27/08] read more

The Church That Isn't a Church

QUOTE: "I was called to start a mission, not a church. There is a difference. ... You don't try to preach ... what is sin and what isn't sin. A mission is a place where you ask nonbelievers to come and find faith and hope and feel love. We're a mission first, a church second." —Robert H. Schuller, explaining his and the church board's decision on Sunday. For decades, Schuller was known for preaching positive-thinking sermons that appealed to a wide audience, including those turned off by traditional religion. Since taking over three years ago, however, Schuller's son has veered slightly from this path by preaching directly from the Bible and taking stronger stances on various moral issues. [, 10/27/08] read more

Can't We All Just Get Along?

According to the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, there are more than 550 "interfaith centers" in the United States—many of which have begun since 9/11—dedicated to combining various faiths in the same house of worship. "I wanted to build a church where Christians are not in charge," says one Seventh-day Adventist pastor who leads the Faith House Manhattan in New York. "We wanted to include all the people who have a right to belong and be partners in the discussion, not as outsiders that need to be converted, but as insiders that we need to be interdependent with." Not surprisingly, many interfaith centers are particularly attractive to women. "Interfaith organizations provide opportunities for women's leadership in a way that oftentimes the religious traditions themselves do not, simply because those positions do not need to be sanctioned by any religious head or body," explains Pluralism Project spokeswoman Kathryn Lohre. [Religion News Service, 10/27/08] read more

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do (With More Money)

After seeing London buses advertising a Christian evangelism conference, an atheist group raised more than $175,000 online—mere hours after launching a charity site—to retaliate with their own signs. The British Humanist Association, which is administering the "Atheist Bus Campaign," will purchase ad space on more than 30 buses for signs that read: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Although organizers originally planned to post the signs for only four weeks in January, donations have exceeded expectations almost twentyfold so far, immediately creating the possibility of a more massive push. "A lot of people say trying to organize atheists is like herding cats. The last couple of days shows that is not true," said comedy writer Ariane Sherine, who initiated the campaign. "I thought it would be a really positive thing to counter that by putting forward a much happier and more upbeat advert, saying 'Don't worry, you're not going to hell.' Atheists believe this is the only life we have, and we should enjoy it." [AP, 10/23/08] read more

Restoring a Nation

QUOTE: “My faith is not in a person, and certainly not in a political party, for the healing of America, but I know God’s Word and His ways well enough to know that our decisions do move Him to action or inaction. … There is no doubt that we have entered a Daniel 10 moment in time. … The spiritual warfare in this election is incredibly fierce, and just as it was in Daniel’s day, it is all about restoration of a nation. And also like Daniel, we must keep praying until we win the battle in the heavens.” —Dutch Sheets, pastor of Freedom Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., who is asking the church to pray for this election “like you’ve never prayed for any in the past.” For more on Sheets’ plea for intercession, click here. read more

A New Face, A New Day

QUOTE: “The black church, which is the spiritual face of the black community, can really take pride in this new America, in this new day that Barack symbolizes for all of us.” —Noel Erskine, associate professor of theology at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology [, 11/5/08] read more

Not What You'll Hear in Mainstream Media

QUOTE: “Two very different subcultures could either collide and explode, or create an opportunity for racial healing and real change. The only glue that can possibly heal our current social breach is a working unity among Bible-believing Christians of all races. … The evangelical movement is building bridges and alliances with people and organizations that some might find surprising. But this story won’t be on the cable channels or the evening news. In truth, many black churches do not embrace the perspectives of Rev. Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. The new black church is led by an exciting new breed of gifted leaders who are up to the task of leading in the 21st century.” —Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition [, 11/10/08] read more

Happy Birthday, Billy!

Renowned evangelist Billy Graham turned 90 last Friday, celebrating amid family near his mountainside home in Montreat, N.C. Although he’ll attend a larger celebration party with family and friends later this month, the appreciation for “America’s Pastor” began circulating long before. Since son Franklin Graham invited Christians worldwide who have been impacted by his father to send a message, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has gathered tens of thousands of greetings. A few weeks ago, Billy: The Early Years released in theaters across the nation to commemorate the special occasion—albeit without the BGEA’s endorsement. “[Billy Graham] enacted America’s idealized self,” commented Grant Wacker, professor of Christian history at Duke University in Durham, N.C. “He’s modeling the kind of person people wish they were.” Another religion professor, William Long of Reed College in Portland, Ore., said one of Graham’s outstanding traits was his ability to transcend religious divisions with a simple yet pointed message. “He burnished off the fine points—the notion that you needed a certain kind of baptism or doctrine. He went straight for the essential gospel message: Jesus Christ died for you. … People date the beginnings of their relationships with God to their encounters with Graham—the most continuing symbol of religious vitality in American life.” [, 11/6/08;, 10/7/08, 11/7/08] read more

Without Walls Not Without More Controversy

It continues to be a tough year for Randy White, pastor of Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Fla. After divorcing ex-wife Paula White, losing his daughter to brain cancer and watching his church go from one of the fastest-growing congregations in the country to losing almost half its membership, White is now facing more public controversy—this time regarding his church’s property.

Last Tuesday, the Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU), which holds the church’s mortgage, began foreclosure proceedings after what ECCU spokesman Jac La Tour says was months of negotiating a loan agreement. Although an agreement was made, White refused to sign the modified version under the advice of lawyers, who said the changes gave all property, furnishings and intellectual rights to the bank. ECCU stated in court documents that the church was in default on a $1 million line of credit due in August and demanded immediate repayment on both that and the $12 million mortgage on Without Walls’ Tampa property. White, however, says church leaders had already been negotiating with ECCU for months—including two trips to the credit union’s headquarters in California—and had shown ECCU a signed contract from the sale of another property proving it could more than pay off its line of credit.

“In my opinion, it’s nothing more than greed from a Christian bank who’s supposed to be working with Christians,” White said. “I think it’s because they’re drowning, they’re pulling so many people in with them. They’re scrambling.”

On Sunday, an impassioned White told his congregation, “This church has never been late in seven and a half years. In fact, we gave them more money than any client they had.” In his hour-and-a-half message, he addressed both the current financial case and a series of unflattering stories in the Tampa Tribune that White says has resulted in a 30 percent decline in attendance. (White plans to sue the newspaper.) “We’re not going under and we’re not going away,” he assured Without Walls members. “I promise you this: I will handcuff myself to that column right there because right is right and wrong is wrong. We are a great church, and the devil has tried to take us out every single way that he can.” [, 11/6/08, 11/10/08;, 11/10/08;, 11/10/08] read more


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