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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]

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‘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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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