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Schuller Parting, Part II

Weeks after being removed from his church's Hour of Power television program, Robert A. Schuller has resigned as senior pastor of Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Although Schuller sent an official letter more than two weeks ago, word of his resignation did not surface until last weekend.

In an announcement posted on the Garden Grove, Calif., church's Web site, the ministry said it had accepted Schuller's resignation and would launch a search for a new pastor. In the meantime, Juan Carlos Ortiz, founder of the Cathedral's Hispanic ministry and a popular charismatic author in the 1970s, will act as senior pastor, while he and executive pastor Jim Poit will lead the pastoral staff.

"Robert continues to be a valued and long-standing member of the Classis of the Reformed Church in America," the announcement said. "It is expected that Robert will make an announcement soon regarding plans for his new ministry. The leadership and congregation wishes him all the best as his plans unfold."

In October, Schuller's father, Crystal Cathedral founder Robert H. Schuller, removed his son as host of the church's Hour of Power TV show. At the time, the elder Schuller said he and his son had been struggling with different visions for the ministry's future and that it became necessary for the two to part ways.

"No longer will the Hour of Power be the voice and face of just one or two individuals," Robert H. Schuller said. Since then, Hour of Power has recorded several shows featuring guest ministers such as Lee Strobel and Bill Hybels.

Robert A. Schuller, 54, served as senior pastor of the church since 2006, when his 82-year-old father also appointed him host of Hour of Power. According to Crystal Cathedral spokesman Michael Nason, the younger Schuller remains in good standing with his denomination. "He remains a pastor within the Reformed Church of America," he said, adding that the congregation hopes to have a new senior pastor within six to 15 months. [latimes.com, 12/14/08; ocregister, 12/14/08] read more

‘Shifting’ Into a Forced Resignation

Richard Cizik, the longtime Washington lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), resigned Thursday after mentioning in a National Public Radio interview that he believed in civil unions for gay couples.

During a Dec. 2 interview on Terry Gross' Fresh Air, Cizik also said he supported Barack Obama during the Virginia primaries and was "shifting" on gay marriage: "I'm shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say I believe in civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think."

In a letter to board members, NAE President Leith Anderson said Cizik's comments "did not appropriately represent the values and convictions of NAE and our constituents." Although Cizik apologized and affirmed the NAE's values, Anderson said there had been "a loss of trust in his credibility as a spokesperson among leaders and constituents."

Anderson said Cizik's resignation, which became effective immediately, was a mutual agreement. "But it was a reluctant mutuality," the New York Times reported. "He was reluctant to resign, and I was reluctant to see him resign."

Anderson added that the NAE's position "on marriage, abortion and other biblical values is long, clear and unchanged."

During Cizik's 28 years with the NAE, the organization, which represents 50 denominations with 450,000 churches, broadened its political agenda to oppose genocide in Darfur and promote "creation care." Because of Cizik's advocacy against global warming, in 2007 two-dozen prominent evangelicals, including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, called on the NAE to silence or fire Cizik. They claimed he was using "the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time"-abortion and sexual immorality.

"It was time for him to go," Tom Minnery, a Focus on the Family senior vice president, told the Associated Press. "He no longer represents the view of evangelicalism. He has not represented those views for some time." [charismamag.com, 12/12/08] read more

A Hero in the ‘New Moral Center’

QUOTE: "Rich Cizik has been a pioneer in the ‘new evangelical' movement and a real hero, especially to the next generation of young believers. The agenda of the evangelical world is deeper and wider because of Rich Cizik. ... Pioneers sometimes get into trouble and even pay a price for their explorations into new territories. But in the new moral center that is now visible, Rich's prophetic voice and leadership will continue to be heard and felt." -Jim Wallis, founder and president of the Christian social justice ministry Sojourners [christianpost.com, 12/13/08] read more

Down Times = Growing Times

A study last year by economics professor David Beckworth showed that during each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth among evangelical churches grew by 50 percent, while mainline Protestant churches continued their steady decline. With the economy sinking, more churches are now verifying this trend and seeing remarkable growth.

"It's a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us," said A.R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York. "When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors."

The key, many pastors say, is staying relevant with the average churchgoer's biggest concern today-which means offering more insight, guidance and hands-on assistance on money matters. To that extent, churches nationwide have begun financial management classes and opened food pantries, while pastors are delivering more sermons on what the economic downturn means.

"We need to leverage this moment, because every Christian revival in this country's history has come off a period of rampant greed and fear," said Seventh Day Adventist televangelist Don MacKintosh. "That's what we're in today-the time of fear and greed." [nytimes.com, 12/13/08] read more

Trinity Chapel Founder Falls

Jim Bolin, founding and senior pastor of Trinity Chapel in Powder Springs, Ga., has stepped down from his position due to "inappropriate consensual sexual conduct with an adult woman." Members of the charismatic-Pentecostal church, which claims a congregation of 7,000 people, were informed on Sunday during an emotional, 90-minute service in which church officials explained the immediate future plans of the church while remaining vague in describing Bolin's falling.

Donald M. Walker, the state administrative bishop for the Church of God (Cleveland), tearfully read a letter from Bolin that began: "I have sinned against God." In his writing, the founding pastor took "full responsibility and blame" for his actions but provided no additional details. "Today you see what a wrong choice has caused," Bolin wrote. "Please learn from this."

The 56-year-old Bolin has agreed to remain inactive in ministry throughout a two-year restoration process overseen by Church of God officials. In his place, Bolin's 32-year-old son, Jason, who is the church's executive pastor, will serve as senior pastor.

"I think the church will be stronger than ever," said one member of the congregation, which gave several standing ovations to show its support for Walker and Jason Bolin, and its forgiveness of the founding pastor. "Jim Bolin was my hero. But he is also human and I forgive him. It's been a tough week, but it's over. There's a new week ahead." [ajc.com, 12/14/08] read more

God's Bailout Plan

A handful of Detroit churches issued a new strategy for the hurting auto industry this past Sunday, calling it "God's Bailout Plan." At Greater Grace Temple, the city's largest church, Bishop Charles H. Ellis III prayed for and anointed hundreds of assembly line workers, executives and car salesman in a service dedicated to auto industry workers whose jobs are on the line. The Pentecostal pastor even had a trio of Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler sport utility vehicles onstage with him during his sermon, which was called "A Hybrid Hope" and bookended by such songs as "I'm Looking for a Miracle" and "We're Gonna Make It."


"We have never seen as midnight an hour as we face this coming week," said Ellis, alluding to Congress' imminent decision on whether to offer Detroit's major carmakers enough financial assistance to stay afloat. "I don't know what's going to happen, but we need prayer. When it's all said and done, we're all in this thing together."

The city's Roman Catholic churches got in on the act, distributing a four-page letter from Cardinal Adam Maida offering advice on how to celebrate the Christmas season while facing the tough economic conditions. "Things in Michigan will probably never be the same," wrote Maida. "[But] at this darkest time of the year, we proclaim that Christ is our light and Christ is our hope." [nytimes.com, 12/7/08] read more

If You Can't Preach ... Sue!

A convicted-murderer-turned-Pentecostal-preacher is the subject of a lawsuit aimed at restoring what he believes is his right to preach to fellow inmates.

Howard Thompson Jr. was ordained a Pentecostal minister at the New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) eight years ago. He preached weekly worship services at the maximum-security facility until prison officials issued a blanket ban last year on all preaching by inmates, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Thompson on Wednesday.

The NJSP administrator and the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections are both named in the suit.

"Prisoners do not forfeit their fundamental right to religious liberty at the prison gate," said Daniel Mach, legal director for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. "The prison's absolute ban on inmate preaching clearly violates the law and Mr. Thompson's right to practice his faith."

As a preacher at Sunday services, a teacher in weekly Bible studies, and the founder of the prison choir, Thompson's religious activities have reportedly never caused any security incidents since he was incarcerated in 1986 for robbery and murder. The prison's chaplaincy staff has supported Thompson's preaching since the 1990s when he was asked to fill in for a sick chaplain.

"I have a religious calling to minister to my fellow inmates, and I've done so honestly, effectively and without incident for years," Thompson said. "All I want is to have my religious liberty restored and to be able to continue working with men who want to renew their lives through the study and practice of their faith."

Last year, an ACLU-backed lawsuit challenging similar restrictions on prisoner preaching in Rhode Island successfully overturned a statewide ban.

"Ours is a country where people are free to express their religious viewpoints without having to fear repercussions," said Edward Barocas, legal director of the ACLU of New Jersey. "The New Jersey State Prison may not deny its prisoners their most basic constitutional rights." [charismamag.com, 12/5/08] read more

'Mommy, What's a Minister?'

Oxford University Press' latest edition of its Junior Dictionary includes some culturally relevant additions such as MP3 player, blog and biodegradable. But it's the ones these words are replacing that have academics and clergy alike up in arms.

For its new release the British publisher omitted words such as minister, chapel, sin, altar, disciple and devil, as well as dozens of terms it believed were outdated because of their predominantly rural use. By nature of the product, the dictionary is restricted in size (10,000 words), meaning words are regularly being culled and replaced. The latest round of edits, according to Oxford representatives, reflect a modern, multifaith, multicultural society.

"When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance," said Vineeta Gupta, head of children's dictionaries at Oxford University Press. "That was because many children lived in semirural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don't go to church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as Pentecost or Whitsun would have been in 20 years ago but not now."

Such reasoning isn't working for many in the academic world, who were equally concerned about the loss of British heritage as with the spirituality of future generations. "We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable," said professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University. "The word selections are a very interesting reflection of the way childhood is going, moving away from our spiritual background and the natural world and toward the world that information technology creates for us." [telegraph.co.uk, 12/8/08] read more

The Emerging Anglican 'Reformation'

Conservative Anglicans living in North America took a first step last Wednesday toward forming a denomination separate from the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism that has been teetering on the verge of a split since it ordained an openly gay bishop in 2003.

During a news conference in Wheaton, Ill., leaders of the Common Cause Partnership (CCP), a conservative group comprised of Anglican associations worldwide, unveiled a provisional constitution and the first set of canons for the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

Leaders said the rival denomination represents 700 congregations, or roughly 100,000 people, in the U.S. and Canada.

"The purpose of the province is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and His transforming love in the United States, Canada and beyond,” said Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the CCP.

Duncan, whom Episcopal Church leaders deposed from his position as bishop of the diocese of Pittsburgh in September, will serve as the interim leader of the ACNA. His diocese defected from the Episcopal Church in October to align with Latin America's Southern Cone based in Argentina.

The ACNA's formation poses the biggest threat yet to the unity of the England-based Anglican Communion, which boasts roughly 77 million members worldwide. Dozens of conservative congregations have defected from the Episcopal Church to align with bishops in Latin America and Africa amid concerns that the American branch of Anglicanism was breaking with orthodox Christianity by embracing gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions.

If the global Anglican Communion were to approve the formation of a new American branch, it could lead to further defections.

The new ACNA denomination already includes the breakaway dioceses of Pittsburgh, Forth Worth, Texas; Quincy, Ill.; and San Joaquin, Calif.—which each represent dozens of churches. Conservative Anglicans who left the Episcopal Church in the 1970s following changes to the Book of Common Prayer and the ordination of women are also among the new denomination's supporters. 

The Rev. Charles Robertson, canon for the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schiori, told the New York Times on Wednesday that there is room for diverse perspectives within the church. "We regret that some have felt the need to depart from the diversity of our common life in Christ,” he said.

Robertson added that the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico are "the official, recognized presence of the Anglican Communion in North America.”

But Duncan said Anglicanism is experiencing a sort of revolution. "We're going through Reformation times, and in Reformation times things aren't neat and clean,” he told the Times. "In Reformation times, new structures are emerging.”

CCP leaders expect seven Anglican primates to approve the new denomination. Many of those leaders, including the archbishops of Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and the Southern Cone, participated in a first-ever Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem in July, where the primates signed a declaration proclaiming a new era for global Anglicanism.

On Friday, several of the GAFCON leaders met to present the provision constitution of the North American branch to the Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. A spokesperson for Williams said on Thursday that the conservative American leaders had not begun to create a new church, Agence France-Presse reported.

"There are clear guidelines set out in the Anglican Consultative Council Reports ... detailing the steps necessary for the amendments of existing provincial constitutions and the creation of new provinces,” the spokesperson said.

"Once begun, any of these processes will take years to complete. In relation to the recent announcement from the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in Chicago, the process has not yet begun.”

Duncan spokesman Rev. Peter Frank said the new denomination would proceed with or without the approval of the archbishop or the Anglican Consultative Council. Duncan spokesman the Rev. Peter Frank said the new denomination would proceed with or without the approval of the archbishop or the Anglican Consultative Council, the group responsible for sanctioning new jurisdictions.

"Certainly the leaders of the largest Anglican provinces are a great place to start, and they're on board with this,” Frank told Charisma. "We also know that we're past the point where some committee in England is going to be able to unilaterally decide who's Anglican and who's not. So that's where we're starting, with the support and the encouragement given to us by Anglican leaders around the world.”

Michael W. Howell, executive director of CCP-affiliated Forward in Faith North America, said many conservative Anglicans had been praying for the formation of a new church for decades. "Instead of focusing on things that divide us, we as orthodox Anglicans are focusing on the things that unite us,” he said.

Cynthia Brust, communications director for the Anglican Mission in the Americas, which is also part of the CCP, said that Wednesday marked "the beginning of the healing of the Anglican Communion.”

"The main component to me is the mission focus,” Brust said. "We will be driven by mission, not structure.”

The CCP links eight conservative Anglican organizations across the globe, including the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Coalition in Canada, the Anglican Communion Network, the Anglican Mission in the Americas, the Anglican Network in Canada, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, Forward in Faith North America and the Reformed Episcopal Church, as well as the bishops and congregations linked with dioceses in Kenya, Uganda and the Southern Cone.

Despite their shared theological conservatism, the groups hold divergent views on significant issues such as liturgical practices and the ordination of women. Frank said the new denomination will encourage mutual submission while "doing all we can to give each other freedom to follow our convictions.”

The ACNA plans to hold an assembly next summer in Texas, where congregations that choose to align with the denomination will ratify the provisional constitution. [charismamag.com, 12/5/08] read more

Todd Bentley Speaks Out

Leaders of the Canadian ministry evangelist Todd Bentley founded a decade ago say the one-time revivalist is "intent" on divorcing his wife and is yet to begin a restoration process.

In a six-page letter to ministry supporters, the board of Fresh Fire Ministries (FFM) released more details about the circumstances that led to Bentley’s departure in August from the Lakeland, Fla., revival meetings he led for four months.

"Todd Bentley has demonstrated himself unfaithful to his wife by entering into a relationship with another woman while still legally married," the board said in its statement. "Todd has yet to enter into a clear system of accountability with the leaders he identified that would be involved in such a process."

The leaders claim Bentley, 32, has no biblical grounds for leaving his wife, Shonnah, and their three children, and that the nature of his relationship with his children’s former nanny is "that of adultery."

"The legal separation from Shonnah was initiated completely by Todd and he has not seen her or the children since the last week in July," they stated.

"It also needs to be clarified that Shonnah has in no way initiated this divorce and has no present intention to do so at any time in the future. She is understandably hurt by Todd’s infidelity, but is not asking or pressing for a divorce."

On Tuesday, Bentley said there had been no sexual immorality between him and the former nanny. He claimed that for two years no "spark or interest" in the former staff member existed, and that the two developed only an emotional relationship several weeks after July 1, when Bentley filed for divorce.

He admitted, however, that the budding relationship was "absolutely" bad timing.

"I would call it an inappropriate relationship, in the sense that it was too soon, too quick, and should’ve never happened the way that it happened," Bentley said. "Emotionally, she had stepped in to comfort me as a friend would.

"But I never left my wife to be with another woman," he said. "There was nothing premeditated or inappropriate in my heart. I had never even entertained the idea that I liked this girl. It never went there."

Claiming to have gone through years of counseling with his wife, Bentley said he is divorcing her over "irreconcilable differences."

He denied disconnecting from his children and told Charisma he is in constant phone contact with them and plans to see them as soon as he sorts out issues with his visa.

Bentley said FFM let him review the letter before they made it public and that he was unhappy with portions of it. He said he felt the letter implied that the breakup of his marriage could be blamed on his relationship with his former nanny and the pressures of leading daily nonstop revival meetings in Lakeland.

"I have the utmost respect for my team in Canada and we have had a lot of years together," he said. "[But] I’m not in agreement with my board on this. The point is, [the former nanny] wasn’t the cause. And I don’t want to blame Lakeland. I want to blame a bad marriage."

Bentley said he is willing to take 100 percent responsibility for his actions and that he readily admits he’s guilty of doing a lot of things wrong over the years. "In a lot of ways, the ministry has been my mistress," he said. "That did destroy my marriage. That I have to take responsibility for."

The FFM leaders said they had been on an "emotional rollercoaster" for several months before releasing the statement, seeking to persuade Bentley to abandon his relationship with the former nanny, return to his wife and children, and quickly embrace a process of counseling and accountability.

In the letter, the board thanked leaders of other ministries who have reportedly tried to help implement a process of restoration for Bentley. "But what we have come to realize is that ultimately, the buck stops with the FFM board of directors," they said. "No one knows Todd better, or has more access to all the facts from both sides than we do."

MorningStar Ministries’ founder Rick Joyner announced in October that he would be leading a team to help restore Bentley and would be assisted by Revival Alliance member Bill Johnson and Texas pastor Jack Deere, along with pastors John Arnott and Ché Ahn serving as advisers.

Bentley said he is still involved at an emotional level with his former nanny and soon plans to move to Joyner’s headquarters in Fort Mill, S.C., to "fully embrace a healing and restoration process."

Joyner confirmed that the process could begin as early as January. He did not confirm if abandoning his relationship with the nanny was a precondition Bentley would need to agree to before entering a healing process led by Joyner.

Joyner did express disappointment with FFM’s recent statement about Bentley and said he tried to persuade them not to send the letter in its current form.

"There is almost always another side to a story, as there is to many of the things they presented in this letter," Joyner said. "Sometimes the truth is found somewhere between the two sides, but if we’re going to ever get to real healing and reconciliation I don’t think this kind of thing helps."

The FFM board said they decided to send the letter to supporters after spending months of silence "in deference to [the] leaders" involved in trying to lead Bentley through a restoration process. "We struggled for a while with the question of how to satisfy two important obligations—that of honoring Todd, while believing for his restoration, and at the same time, our obligation to be completely honest and open with you."

Although Bentley experienced a moral failing, the FFM leaders said the Lakeland Revival he led was an authentic move of God. "Through the weakness and failure of man, the enemy seeks to defame and discredit what God has done," they said. "[But] Lakeland was and is an authentic move of God. God poured Himself out in Florida and through the Internet and television around the world."

FFM is in the process of restructuring its ministries with assistance from Johnson’s church in Redding, Calif., and Joyner’s ministry in South Carolina.

Their letter also stated that Bentley has officially resigned and that the Abbottsford, British Columbia-based FFM is searching for another leader. "We love Todd dearly, [and] it is our deep desire that our brother should be restored," they said.

"Please let us make it clear, that although what Todd has done is inexcusable, it is not unforgiveable. We do not judge him unworthy of a second, third or even fourth chance." [charismamag.com, 12/4/08] read more

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