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Despite a sagging economy that’s (literally) leaving more people out in the cold, New York City officials have ordered at least 22 churches to stop providing shelter for homeless people. As temperatures drop below freezing, more churches will be prone to open their doors for those on the streets, yet officials reminded these and other churches that they must be provide beds at least five days a week to be considered an official faith-based shelter. “We really don’t want people sleeping on the streets, on grates, on church steps. We want people sleeping in beds,’ said the Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Robert Hess, who added that the city has 8,000 beds waiting for bodies.A church in Pittsburgh, however, recently had to fight against county officials for its right to care for the homeless. This summer, a zoning officer for Brookville Borough in Jefferson County cited pastor Jack L. Wisor of First Apostles Doctrine Church for a code violation of “group housing” by allowing three homeless men to live in his church’s parsonage. The pastor was fined $500 in August, while the church was instructed to not house any more homeless individuals. As a reply, Wisor recruited—of all things—the American Liberties Civil Union to help him file a federal lawsuit and argue that sheltering those living on the street is fundamental to the church’s Just for Jesus Challenge Homeless Outreach ministry. The result? A day before the case’s hearing, the Brookville Borough council gave the church permission to house up to eight homeless individuals (along with two staff members). Currently the church and borough are meeting to discuss future plans with the homeless ministry. [wcbstv.com, 11/22/08; post-gazette.com, 11/24/08] Read more...
this month, the campus of the Cathedral at Chapel Hill, well known for
its neo-Gothic, 6,000-seat sanctuary, is one of the largest religious
facilities currently available in the United States, said Matt Messier,
a Florida broker and principal of CNL Real Estate Services of Orlando,
Fla., according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
recent years, membership at the Cathedral at Chapel Hill has declined
from 10,000 regular attendees to roughly 1,000 after a series of sexual
misconduct allegations against Paulk, 81. Current pastor D.E. Paulk,
who grew up believing Earl Paulk was his uncle but recently learned he
was his biological father, said the sale was triggered in part by the
church’s evolving mission to be inclusive of people of diverse
religions and sexual orientations.
we have become a ‘radically inclusive’ church our need for space has
lessened considerably. ... If we were to preach an exclusive message we
would need more space,” D.E. Paulk said. “The mission of the Cathedral
has not changed, only expanded to include all of God's
creation—Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, gay, straight, etc.”
Paulk, who also leads a group called the Pro-Love Organization, has
advocated for gay rights in recent years and is an associate of the
controversial preacher Carlton Pearson, who teaches that all people,
not just Christians, are saved. In an interview with Charisma magazine,
D.E. Paulk also alluded to universalism, saying the Cathedral does not
seek to convert but to “convince everyone of Christ’s love.”
believe that Christ was successful, not a failure,” D.E. Paulk said.
“Christ came to ‘reconcile the world to God,’ and we confess that
Christ succeeded and ‘finished’ this work. If Christ was successful
then the world was converted at Calvary. Salvation, then, becomes an
awakening to God's free gift—not a conversion.”
Paulk, wife of D.E. Paulk and a pastor at the Cathedral, said the
church property was valued at $31 million two years ago, but the price
was lowered because of the economic downturn. She told the Journal-Constitution
that the facilities were not being sold to pay legal expenses related
to civil actions involving Earl Paulk, who has been hounded by claims
of sexual misconduct since he was accused of committing adultery in
February, a judge dismissed the most recent action against Earl Paulk.
The lawsuit filed by Mona Brewer and her husband, Bobby, alleged that
Paulk coerced the woman into a 14-year affair. The couple and their
attorney were ordered to pay more than $1 million in legal fees. They
are appealing the decision.
Although Earl Paulk remains archbishop of the church, he is not active in its daily operations. [charismamag.com, 11/13/08] Read more...
“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; gazette.com, 11/12/08] Read more...
Although last week’s historic election of Barack Obama as the United States’ next president obviously shattered racial barriers, many Christian leaders say it also highlighted a still-prevalent racial divide among churches and believers.
Associated Press exit polls showed that 74 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Republican candidate John McCain, while 94 percent of African-American believers voted for Obama. Yet according to many leaders, the underlying differences—and problems—emerged long before a single vote was cast.
“I think in the eagerness to protect the right to life issues, there were some things said … that were not always fair and that were insensitive that need to be rethought,” said T.D. Jakes, founding pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas. “I would love to see black and white Christians find common ground, and a deeper understanding of each other’s needs.”
Other black leaders voiced a stronger objection to the pre-election rhetoric, particularly from the white-dominated Christian right: “What they did is insult our biblical understanding,” said Derrick W. Hutchins, a leader in the predominantly black Church of God in Christ. “The white religious right-wing determined that if you didn’t vote for McCain, you were not meeting a standard of the Bible.”
Taking a more historical viewpoint, Shirley Caesar-Williams, pastor of Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, N.C., told her congregation that “God has vindicated the black folk. Too long we’ve been at the bottom of the totem pole, but He has vindicated us—hallelujah! I don’t know about you, but I don’t have nothing to put my head down for, praise God. Because when I look toward Washington, D.C., we got a new family coming in. … And you know what? They look like us.” [AP, 11/7/08, 11/10/08] Read more...