Harvest Bible Chapel Fires Pastor of HBC – Naples (UPDATED)

John Secrest today informed Julie Roys that he has been fired from his position as pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Naples, FL. Secrest planted the church there as a ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship. HBF was once affiliated with HBC. Those organizations parted ways last summer.

According to Roys, Secrest partnered with the HBC through the winter. Secrest did so without being aware of Roys’ investigation and pending article. In a letter to his congregation, Secrest said:

Dear Harvest Naples Friends,
I want you to know that I have asked the elders to reverse their decision to allow Pastor James to preach in Naples while on his sabbatical as outlined in the elder update sent to you on Wednesday 1/16/2019. This request was denied.

The good intentions of our ministry partnership with Harvest Chicago have been overshadowed by these developments. Furthermore, when we entered into this agreement there was not a disclosure of the investigative reporting which led to a lawsuit and the resulting fallout.

Read Roys’ article here. Secrest regretted his decision to enter the partnership and wanted to regain leadership of the church.

Secrest also wrote HBC yesterday and asked to reverse the agreement:

I am writing to express my disagreement with the decision to have Pastor James preach in Naples during this season of sabbatical.  Based on our conversations and other factors over the past 8 months I believe it would be best to revoke our ministry partnership and return Harvest Naples to self-governed autonomy.

Today, Secrest said he was fired. It is not clear if he was fired in response to his requests about the church or because he provided this information to Julie Roys. HBC did not return a request for comment.

I have a hard time putting this action together with the contrite statement by the HBC elders dated 1/16/19. In it, HBC leaders said they wanted peace and to listen.

UPDATE

This email was sent to HBC members:

Dear Harvest Naples Family,

It is with great sadness and regret that we write to inform you that John Secrest is no longer an employee of Harvest Bible Chapel.

Despite great efforts and reasoning, John has chosen not to yield to the consensus of our local leadership team or the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel. Conversations with John over the last few months, culminating this week, have made it clear that he no longer desires to work for Harvest Bible Chapel.

Because of his continued unwillingness to yield to the direction of the elders and the insubordinate email he recently sent counter to the elder direction, it became clear that he should not continue in his role.

Our hearts are grieved as John’s contributions to the Naples Campus cannot be understated. We wish him, Jessica, and his family well.

Harvest Naples will continue as a campus of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago with Pastor Rick Donald serving as interim Campus Pastor and Associate Travis Doucette as Pastor of Worship and Leadership Development. Pastor James MacDonald will not be preaching this weekend. Services will continue this Sunday at 9:00 and 11:00 am.

We recognize that situations like these often yield more questions than can be answered in one email. The local elders of Harvest Naples, Scott Stonebreaker and Fred Ananias, are available to field any additional questions.

We ask for your prayers as our church grieves this loss.

We are believing for good things as we lean into God and His Word.

Standing together,

The Harvest Naples Leadership Team and Elders

Unless there is a different email, the email sent by Secrest and posted by Roys expressed disagreement but certainly didn’t seem insubordinate.

 

WSJ: Liberty University Administrator Involved in Michael Cohen Fake News Scheme

They will know we are Christians by our fake news.

In a surprising plot twist, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning that President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen is being accused of failing to pay the Chief Information Officer of Liberty University John Gauger for his poll rigging services. Cohen arranged with Gauger’s tech firm to manipulate the results of two online polls and set up a fake Twitter account. Gauger claims Cohen didn’t pay him in full.

Womp, womp.

According to the WSJ report, Gauger doesn’t dispute the work involved. He got paid a portion of the fee in cash which Cohen allegedly gave in a Wal-Mart bag.

My interest in the story is less about Cohen and more about Gauger. According to the story, Gauger set up an algorithm to repeatedly vote for Trump in a CNBC online poll of top business people. Even with Gauger’s help, Trump couldn’t crack the top 100. The Liberty administrator also tried to manipulate a Drudge poll and set up a “Women for Cohen” twitter account. Sounds like fake news to me.

Most people (I hope) realize those polls are worthless for reasons such as implied by this news. However, some people use them to shape their image or manipulate public opinion. Does anyone doubt that Trump would have used positive results to his advantage?

It is one thing to vote a few times for your favorite band in an online poll, it is another to craft a service around dishonesty. This firm sells the ability to use technology to make fake news. I wonder if the IT classes at Liberty University teach that.

I know much of what we run into online is an effort at persuasion and manipulation. I hope this story raises awareness about the many ways we are surrounded by efforts to move and shape our opinions and behavior. Furthermore, I hope Christians begin to recognize that fake news is coming from sources within the camp.

 

 

James MacDonald to Take Sabbatical to Focus on Peacemaking

Last night, several sources told me that James MacDonald had resigned. I asked church spokeswoman Sherri Smith about those reports and she responded that MacDonald had not resigned.

However, MacDonald was about to make a change.

This morning Harvest Bible Chapel posted the following Elder Update:

Dear Harvest Family,

We have tried a variety of different strategies to address external criticisms over the past several years. It has become apparent that these efforts have failed to fully identify and address our personal failures, sins, and errors in leadership, thus perpetuating a continuation of the criticism. In prayerful reflection upon all that has happened and how we got here, a private meeting of the Executive Committee of the Elders on Monday, January 14, led to the decision to be part of a peacemaking process that seeks both reconciliation and change where needed, which was reviewed by the entire Elder Board last night.

We are reminded of these biblical imperatives:
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.’” Matthew 7:3-5

In an effort to invite others to join us, we are working with two highly respected ministries (modeled after “The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict,” though not directly aligned with the organization of that name) that specialize in helping churches resolve issues in God-honoring ways. The peacemaking process will include:

    • The selection of a team of experienced and highly respected conciliators and organizational consultants who will guide us through an objective and comprehensive review process.
    • Reaching out to individuals who have left our fellowship or have complaints against us, listening carefully to their insights and correction, and asking God to enable us to confess our sins and make needed changes in our leadership.
    • Thoroughly examining our church’s organizational, financial, management, and leadership policies and practices, and making whatever changes are necessary to ensure that every area is being managed according to professional best practices and in a way that honors God.

While we had hoped that successful audits and re-examined/confirmed ECFA compliance would help heal some relational wounds, it simply hasn’t happened. As part of the peacemaking process, Pastor James is taking an indefinite sabbatical from all preaching and leadership at our church in Chicago. He has recused himself fully from any direction of this peacemaking process, other than to participate when and how requested. He may continue preaching at Harvest Naples through some of the winter months and will be on sabbatical, pending the completion of the reconciliation process and a full report to the congregation. Please be in prayer for Pastor James and Kathy through this season.

We are asking the Lord to lead us as we engage in this peacemaking process. The Lead/Campus Pastors will continue to lead the day-to-day ministry of the church, and we ask for your support as they do so. Campus Pastors will be present and available during normal Wednesday ministry tonight on all campuses.

– The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel

___

From Pastor James:
For a long time I have felt unequal to all but the preaching task at Harvest. I have battled cycles of injustice, hurt anger, and fear which have wounded others without cause.

I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin. I am grieved that people I love have been hurt by me in ways they felt they could not express to me directly and have not been able to resolve. I blame only myself for this and want to devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns.

I have long known and taught it is not about the messenger, it is about the message and I am grateful for a time of extended sabbatical, during which Harvest will be in capable hands. I may continue preaching at the Naples Campus through some of the winter season and have postponed all writing and leadership to begin in earnest now. I will continue this focus as long as it takes and participate wholeheartedly as requested in the process shared above. 

Please pray that this welcomed time of sabbatical rest will lead to needed changes in me and a fresh opportunity to reconcile with others in God’s time.

Christ is all He promised to be and more… “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me by still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3). Please pray for me and Kathy as we step away from the work, so God can do all He wants to do in the worker.

HBC and MacDonald recently dropped a defamation suit against two bloggers, their wives and journalist Julie Roys. The church and founding pastor have been under pressure amid allegations of financial mismanagement, lack of transparency, and authoritarian leadership style.

MacDonald’s move is reminiscent of Mark Driscoll’s sabbatical before he resigned as pastor at Mars Hill Church in 2014. As noted in a previous post, the path of HBC and MacDonald seems similar to Mars Hill and Driscoll’s. Throughout 2014, Mars Hill tried many things to address criticism without success. Focusing on Driscoll, the ex-members and ex-elders became increasingly vocal and public. The same thing is happening now with HBC.

One hopes that HBC can review the Mars Hill timeline and demise with an eye toward learning something of value. If history repeats itself, the multi-site HBC may splinter into local churches as did Mars Hill. Sources have told me that such an outcome has been discussed by HBC leaders.

Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134

Why Aren’t Evangelical Trump Supporters More Curious About Trump’s Behavior Toward Russia?

The easy answer is that evangelical leaders don’t want to mess up their power relationship with the president. It is easier to rationalize his actions. Even though the same actions from a Democrat president would bring outrage, they have tasted political dominance and don’t want to give it up.

There may be other factors. Social psychologists study the role of consistency and cognitive dissonance in maintaining attitudes. Taking a public position helps to solidify that attitude. Also, dissonance over a position can often be resolved by finding a sufficient justification for it. Subjects in studies have been induced to lie and say dull, boring tasks were fun. Subjects only paid a small sum to lie later said the tasks were interesting in contrast to those who were paid 20 times as much money to lie. The well paid group had sufficient justification to lie whereas the low pay group did not. The low pay group resolved their dissonance by later rating the tasks as more interesting than all other subjects.

Evangelical leaders may tell themselves that getting judges or support for some other policy or access to the president is justification for lack of scrutiny of the president’s behavior toward Russia. They may tell themselves that Russia isn’t really that bad after all. However, to people outside of the circle of his evangelical supporters, the president’s actions are very troubling.

If this article interested you, you probably have heard that the FBI investigated Trump’s possible ties to Russia after he fired FBI Director James Comey. Over the weekend, it was also reported that Trump has taken steps to keep his meetings with Vladimir Putin highly secret. There are other signs which have been documented elsewhere and summarized below. In short, Trump has deferred to Putin and Russian interests in ways that depart sharply from previous U.S. policy.

Even actions which appear to signal a willingness to respond firmly to Russia raise questions. Some supporters of the president point out the administration imposed tough sanctions on Russian interests, including those very close to Putin. An incurious supporter of the president will stop there. However, even the tough actions aren’t always what they seem to be.

For instance, in April 2018, the U.S. imposed tough sanctions on a group of Russian interests. One such person whose name is recently in the news was Oleg Deripaska. However, the action was delayed by the Trump administration almost a year past the time when it would have done the most good. Congress wanted sanctions imposed much earlier but for reasons never made clear, Trump delayed imposing them. In that time frame, the targets (who were well aware they were coming) had time to move funds into locations which are not covered by the sanctions.

Now the administration is lobbying to remove sanctions from companies previously associated with Deripaska. It isn’t clear to me how much Deripaska personally would benefit from the action but the timing of request should raise questions. However, Trump supporters don’t seem to ask questions.

As a child of the 60s, I am in disbelief to see evangelicals numb to Russian efforts to destabilize our elections. To hear Trump excuse Russian aggression is jarring and raises so many red flags. Trump’s behavior with Putin and in relation to Russian interests are truly and objectively troubling. Even Andy McCarthy, a Trump defender writing at the National Review, saw it recently. McCarthy doesn’t support the Mueller investigation but wrote, “If Mueller’s highly elastic warrant is to probe Trump “collusion” with the Kremlin, why would he stop if the president keeps giving him reasons to continue?”

McCarthy then lists Trump’s unbelievable support for Russian rationale for the invasion of Afghanistan, his praise of Putin as a leader in the face of evidence that he ordered the murder of dissenters, his obsequious response in Helsinki to Putin’s denial of election meddling, and his lies about having business dealings in Russia as reasons why someone might want to investigate. Trump supporter McCarthy doesn’t think Trump is a Russian agent, but he understands why someone might question Trump’s behavior.

In contrast, evangelical and other supporters of Trump just close their eyes and minds. Although I think it is highly likely that there is compromising information known by the Russians which motivates Trump, I will withhold judgment until Robert Mueller completes his work. However, whatever motivates our president, his actions are not helpful to the U.S. and demand a response from Congress and the people.

 

Nori Media Group Refuses Comment on Plagiarism in Tim Clinton’s Ignite Your Faith. Guest Post by Aaron New

Guest post by Aaron New

Tim Clinton, President of the American Association of Christian Counselors and Executive Director of the James Dobson Family Institute, faced questions of plagiarism and ghost-writing last year.  Blog host Warren Throckmorton has documented many of those questions here.  I have compiled a long list of my questions and concerns here.  Clinton has consistently denied, through a spokesman, plagiarizing any material. On more than one occasion, Clinton has declared a “zero-tolerance policy on plagiarism.” Clinton “is just not a plagiarist” his spokesman said. That’s the “bottom line.” Instead, Clinton has blamed grad students, interns, research assistants, employees, “posting errors via some third party partners,” and even co-authors for the “mistakes” in various writings and publications. In addition, he seems to describe some “mistakes” as inevitable since at the AACC “[we] do touch a lot of content, mountains of content, in fact, between what we put online, what we distribute to members, what goes into books, and other publications.”

Not Me

So, if I understand correctly, there have been “mistakes” for which plenty of others are responsible.  Clinton himself, however, is not accountable for any of them.

This is not the sort of personal responsibility Christian counselors need to model for our clients. But I digress.

In an August 2018 statement to Inside Higher Ed, Clinton’s spokesman mentioned that one book in particular was “under an immediate editorial review.”  Later, I became curious about the outcome of this review, so I contacted the publisher to follow up.

The book in question is a devotional by Clinton Ignite Your Faith: Get Back in the Fight, published by Destiny Image in 2014. The parent company of Destiny Image is Nori Media Group. After several attempts, I exchanged brief correspondence with a couple of executives at Nori Media.  I provided 8 different examples of potentially plagiarized material I found in the book.  I highlighted each of the “Ignite” passages I found questionable and also provided what I believed were the original sources.  Some were only minimally questionable, others were clearly problematic, with the most blatant example being a devotional on day 35 where large amounts of the entry appear to be a cut and paste job from a newspaper article in 1999 (see this post for extensive documentation of the cut and paste job).

One executive acknowledged my concerns and thanked me for bringing them to his attention.  He promised to “review the documents you have provided for cases of possible plagiarism and take the most appropriate course of action based on our findings.”  Since then, I have asked for an update several times, focusing on just 2 questions.  (1) Was Nori Media previously aware of the potential plagiarism?  (2) What was the result of their investigation and what actions will they take, if any?

After over a month of inquiries and a phone call from Warren Throckmorton to Nori Media yesterday, I finally received the briefest of responses from the Vice President. Jonathan Nori wrote:

It is contrary to Destiny Image policy to comment on potential issues of plagiarism or any actions taken related to such.

I’m disappointed by this response and wish there was more transparency regarding their findings and actions. As it is, the public is left to just make guesswork of it all. The book does not appear on the Destiny Image website, but a customer service representative said the website has undergone some recent changes and Ignite Your Faith has yet to be added back to the online catalog. The book is still available for purchase from Destiny Image (as are two other works by Tim Clinton).

If Tim Clinton and the AACC take plagiarism as seriously as they indicate, I would have expected Destiny Image to be aware of problem and be willing to make a statement accordingly.  Without any further details from them, I cannot say with certainty they were unaware of the potential plagiarism, but I suspect that the AACC’s “immediate editorial review” did not include a notice to Destiny Image or Nori Media.  Definitely of note, the book is still available to purchase on the AACC website. This is curious, given Clinton’s “zero-tolerance policy” on plagiarism.

As I have said elsewhere, I refuse to believe this is an unimportant topic.  Our field deserves better than this.


Update to Aaron’s article by Warren Throckmorton (1/10/19)

As part of reviewing Aaron’s article, I contacted Nori Media Group by phone. The person who answered said Ignite Your Faith was still offered by Nori but, as Aaron noted, the website was incomplete. She then said she would pass along my questions about possible plagiarism and copying to someone in production. She told me that she or another person would call back with an answer. I didn’t get a call. I also wrote Nori and asked why other publishers commented on plagiarism when found in their books. I have not received an answer.

It is relevant to point out that Tim Clinton’s co-author/collaborator on this book commented to me about this book almost five months ago.  Below that entire post from August 2018 is reproduced:

Defending himself against charges of academic misconduct last week, American Association of Christian Counselors president and Trump advisor Tim Clinton blamed a former employee for lifting material from other sources for use in articles which carried Clinton’s byline. Even though AACC’s code of ethics discourages ghostwriters, Clinton blamed an employee who functioned in that manner for material in his articles which came from other sources.

One online article by Clinton [see this article for evidence of copying in Press On from Ignite Your Faith], “Press On,” (cached)* which contained plagiarized material was first published in the book Ignite Your Faith by Clinton and Max Davis. Because I wanted to find out how the copied content got into “Press On,” I contacted Davis for comment (I also contacted Clinton with no response).

When I contacted Davis, he said he did not have any part in writing the devotional “Press On.” He added that he always checks his sources and “never once in all my years as a writer has this happened” referring to copied content ending up in one of his books.

He also wanted me to know that he was not the fired AACC employee blamed by Clinton for academic misconduct to the Christian Post.

*The same article with the title “Strive to Excel” was once posted on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk website. It is archived here.

 

Some Thoughts in Response to Harvest Bible Chapel’s Defamation Lawsuit

On Monday night, I reported that Harvest Bible Chapel dropped their defamation suit against The Elephant’s Debt bloggers, their wives, and Julie Roys. As a part of discovery in the suit, Roys filed an extensive request for documents. As those documents were supplied to Roys, she published some of the internal communications on her blog. In turn, that action led HBC to ask the court to prevent Roys from making the material public. On Monday, the court declined to issue a stay on such information. Later that night the church signaled an intent to drop the suit.

According to a statement released by HBC, the church wanted to spare the privacy of people who might be named in emails and texts subpoenaed by Roys. I am sure that is true. In addition, I suspect there are aspects of the church’s functioning and information about various church leaders that the church wanted to keep private. I say that because the church now keeps some such information secret. For instance, information about executive compensation and housing and other financial transactions are guarded secrets. There also appears to be an attempt to manage the reputation of leadership.

Even though I support the journalists (I consider bloggers citizen journalists) in this case, I must add that I only do so because I don’t see any indication of bad faith. Some of what was written may indeed turn out to be off or incomplete, but it appears to me that those involved have tried to get the story right. I do not support people who speculate or make false allegations and claim freedom of speech as a protection from scrutiny.

I have written things that turned out to be incorrect but not because I intended to. When reporting about organizations which deliberately spread disinformation or attempt to mislead, it is hard to separate truth from a lie. At times, I have gone with incomplete information because a source didn’t have all the information. In those times, the remedy is to correct as quickly as possible and apologize.

In the suit brought by Harvest, a sign of what appeared to be an intent to harass was the inclusion of the bloggers’ wives as defendants. Harvest never addressed this. I specifically asked the church why they did this and the church spokesperson simply referred me to James MacDonald’s prior statements. Nothing in those statements dealt with a reason to sue the wives of the bloggers.

Given the fragile legal and theological foundations of the suit and the heavy handed means of pursuing it, I think HBC’s leaders have a responsibility to correct themselves. I believe they should pay the legal expenses of the defendants and issue a public apology. The very public retreat from what HBC leaders told the public God was leading them to do is a rebuke to their leadership. First, they said God was directing them to sue. Now they say God is directing them to drop the suit. A reasonable question for members is: Do these leaders have the ability to know what God is directing the church to do?

Recently, when Willow Creek Church found itself in a leadership crisis over the mishandling of Bill Hybels, the entire leadership team resigned. While the church isn’t out of the woods yet, this action helped to reassure wavering members that the church might be able to survive. It was a brave, selfless, and bold move. Harvest Bible Chapel finds itself in a similar crisis of leadership. What will the leaders of the church do?

A factor which might separate the two Chicago area churches is member sentiment. At Willow Creek, there was and is a significant number of members who demanded change. I am not aware of a significant number of current members who want change. If indeed most current members are happy with the situation, then probably nothing will happen. Indeed, it is a personal matter for members to decide.

In the current Harvest governance, there really isn’t a way for members to have an impact on leadership. They don’t vote for elders and they can’t recall a pastor or staff member. They can stop giving or leave the church. By HBC’s admission, over 2000 members have left over the past several years. The leaders blamed that on the bloggers. Will the public retreat on the lawsuit change the focus? Will they now look inward?

Since there is no systematic means for members to have an influence on leadership at HBC, I suspect that those who are dissatisfied will continue to trickle away. Although a bold leadership move could probably prevent that, it is probably as it should be. No doubt there are many small struggling churches which could use some new members.

Ultimately, it would be wonderful if the HBC board and senior pastor repent of their actions in this lawsuit, make restitution to the defendants, and at least consider a sabbatical from leadership to determine why they thought they should pursue such an extreme public action. Trust in Christian leaders is at a low right now and it would nice to get some good news for a change.

Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134

Ralph Drollinger Responds to Allegations He is a Christian Nationalist

Ralph Drollinger really doesn’t like being called a Christian nationalist. He is back with a rebuttal to another Katherine Stewart NY Times op-ed and has a response to my recent posts on his ministry. He gets a few things wrong in his reply which I want to unpack.

First, Drollinger takes on Fred Clark for a brief statement in one of Clark’s Patheos blog postings. Clark wrote:

Ralph Drollinger of “Capitol Ministries” says he’s not a Christian nationalist. (Warren Throckmorton, correctly, disagrees with him.)

In his blog post, Clark linked to my Dec. 31 article on Drollinger and Christian nationalism.

Then Drollinger comes after me.

Throckmorton makes no bones about being a Monday morning quarterback. He describes his blog as a “college psychology professor’s observations about public policy, mental health, sexual identity, and religious issues.”

According to Wikipedia, Throckmorton has no formal training or education in theology.

Throckmorton’s credentials are listed as: bachelor’s in psychology in 1979 from Cedarville College; an M.A. in clinical psychology from Central Michigan University in 1982; and a Ph.D. in counselor education and community counseling from Ohio University in 1992.

I think he means this as a criticism but I don’t know how it helps him. Perhaps, he didn’t recognize Cedarville College as a Christian college. If he had, he might have wondered about my training there. In fact, I took more hours in bible training, theology and New Testament Greek than in psychology (my major). While it was a long time ago, I do have training in theology. Now what?

One consequence of my training as an educator and academic is that I provide citations for my sources. Drollinger doesn’t do that. While he mentions my blog, he doesn’t link to it (or Clark’s). The effect is that he can select a part of my post without his readers having the easy ability to click over and read it for themselves. For instance, Drollinger claims I object to conversion.

In stating his reasons for calling Drollinger a Christian nationalist, Throckmorton objects to Drollinger evangelizing legislators, or, as he writes, “converting legislators to his view of God’s moral law.”

In fact, I don’t object to evangelizing. Evangelizing others is an American freedom. I object to teaching government officials that conversion is necessary for effective public service and possibly using public facilities and resources to do so.

Throckmorton objects to Drollinger establishing “his view of Christianity.” What other view of Christianity would Drollinger impart?

Drollinger gets hung up on my deliberate attempt to distinguish his evangelicalism from other Christian traditions. Of course, he is going to preach what he believes. However, his view of conversion appear to be limited to those in his tradition. It isn’t clear if Catholic, Orthodox, or progressive Christians fall within his definition. Certainly, non-Christians don’t. Even in his rebuttal, he doesn’t back away from his contention that non-Christians however defined aren’t as qualified to legislate as Christians are.

In likeminded logic, does he object to those same actions by other religious leaders, such as the Catholic Pope imparting his brand of Christianity on Nancy Pelosi? Or is it only conservative Evangelical Christians whom Throckmorton believes should be silenced?

I never said he should be silenced. I believe his objectives and teachings should be explicit. That is why I wrote about his operation. My post mostly quoted his material which makes it clear that he believes Christians from his tradition are better legislators and voters than other citizens. I think that runs counter to the Constitution and American values. Since Drollinger obscures the issue by limiting the definition of Christian nationalism to exclude him, it is even more important to present his views clearly.

Non-Christian Legislators Not Effective

Regarding conversion and the effectiveness of legislators, Drollinger says I am wrong and then proves me correct. I don’t think he sees what I see as a contradiction. Drollinger:

Allegation

Perhaps Throckmorton misunderstood when he mocked Drollinger’s point that conversion to Christianity was preeminent to education for the leaders of the state. Throckmorton wrote:

“If President Trump’s handlers are truly listening to this advice, this could help account for some of the truly unqualified appointments to high administration positions and the judiciary.”

This is False

As Drollinger has said and written many times, education, knowledge, experience, and the proper qualifications are important.

The point Drollinger was making refers to the effect of sin on an individual and strikes at the heart of his ministry as a Christian pastor – to introduce people to God and to teach them why they need His Word.

When someone is “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), they will not be effective in office or anyplace else due to the noetic effect of sin.

This is called talking out of two sides of your face. First he says I am wrong and says education and qualifications are important, but then he says when someone isn’t converted as an evangelical they are not effective. Actually, I wasn’t wrong at all. He still says non-Christian legislators aren’t effective. His evidence is a Bible verse for a political claim.

By raising the “noetic effect of sin,” Drollinger makes a theological argument against his position. The noetic effect of sin is that effect on reasoning and cognition which effects all people, converted and unconverted. As I was taught at evangelical Cedarville College, Christians do not escape the noetic effects of sin. We can learn much from those who are not Christians. In my training, the basis for integration of academic disciplines and theology was rigorous instruction in both professional knowledge and theology.  It is what I currently do now as a Christian college professor. Drollinger’s citation of the noetic effect of sin undermines his point about making conversion a priority for legislators. Just try that when you need open heart surgery.

There is more and you can read the rest.

I don’t think Drollinger should be silenced. I do think he should be watched and his teachings clarified. A key problem I have with his influence is that he thinks non-evangelical legislators aren’t effective. This is arrogant, theologically narrow, and empirically false.

Harvest Bible Chapel Drops Defamation Suit

I just heard via Twitter that Harvest Bible Chapel dropped their defamation lawsuit against The Elephant’s Debt bloggers and their wives, and Julie Roys. This came after a judge did not grant a restraint against the publication of material obtained via discovery. Here is HBC’s announcement from the church website.

In October of 2018, we filed a lawsuit asking a civil court to restrict the actions of those attempting to interfere in the life of our church by publicizing false and distorted information about our church, primarily related to the years 2007-2012.

On advice of counsel, we still believe their actions to be illegal. However today the court ruled, contrary to expectation and legal precedent, that it would not stay further discovery while the case is under defendants’ motions to dismiss, nor would it restrict the publicizing of that discovery during the trial process.

Recent events have made it clear that any further private content subpoenaed from third and fourth parties will likely be publicized online. Case law contains many legal precedents related to restricting these actions, yet the court ruled against our motions in both instances.* The result is that even if we filed a motion to reconsider, even if we amended the complaint to exclude private matters sensitive to some third parties, the court appears unwilling to protect our many friends, including those with whom we seek to reconcile. In good conscience we cannot knowingly subject innocent people, in many instances against their will, to a full subpoena process.

Surely the Lord could have caused the court to rule in our favor, as “the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33), and “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:9). We receive these outcomes as God’s direction and have instructed our legal counsel to drop the suit entirely. With this decision, we can again focus our energies on continued growth in personal and organizational faults we have owned, enduring what is false, and striving to mitigate the damage such attacks bring to our church family and friends.

We remain willing to meet with the defendants for a face-to-face resolution of grievances, and we covet your prayers. 

– The Executive Committee of Elders, Harvest Bible Chapel

*At our request, a court reporter transcribed today’s proceeding, which will be available soon.

A common sense view of this situation is that the bloggers and journalist have free speech rights and the courts are keen on maintaining them. It always seemed odd to me that a church would use the courts to attempt to establish a fact pattern. If the church wants to be transparent, then simply open the books and the minutes and take questions from the press without a defensive posture.

 

Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134

Jerry Falwell is Wrong About the Poor

There are several head scratching quotes from Jerry Falwell, Jr. in his New Year’s Day interview with Joe Heims in the Washington Post. One such quote which caught my eye is this:

Why have Americans been able to do more to help people in need around the world than any other country in history? It’s because of free enterprise, freedom, ingenuity, entrepreneurism and wealth. A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.

While job creation might be out of reach for many low income people, charitable giving is something the poor do often. As Relevant magazine pointed out, Christian college president Falwell appears to have forgotten Jesus’ teaching about the widow and her few cents. Beyond Falwell’s insensitivity to the Bible, he is wrong about the poor and charitable giving. Actually, low income people as a group give a lot and on average they give more as a percentage of their income than rich people.

Given Falwell’s role as a fund raiser for his college, I am surprised he isn’t aware of this. In philanthropy literature, the link between income bracket and giving is well known. Although the truly poor don’t often itemize charitable gifts, lower income brackets are responsible for significant amounts of charitable giving compared to higher brackets. This is especially true of religious giving.

A 2007 Indiana University study found that donors making under 100,000/year gave nearly $60 Billion to religious organizations compared to $8.6 Billion given by donors making over $1 million/year. The per donor gift was much smaller in the lower income group, but together the lower income group represented nearly 60% of all giving to religious causes. In contrast to Falwell’s claim, that’s some real volume. No doubt Falwell’s college gets many widow’s mites on a monthly basis to help keep those doors open.

I realize that $100,000/year is not poor. However, this bracket is more likely to include large families with limited resources. As noted above, people in the lowest income groups don’t often itemize contributions and so it is harder to capture those data via the Indiana U. methodology. However, other research supports the contention that lower income persons give more as a percentage of income than the rich.

For instance, a 2014 study published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy showed that the wealthy reduced their giving during the economic downtown while lower and middle income donors increased giving. The lowest income bracket – those making less than $25,000/year – increased their giving by 17% from 2006 to 2012. The lowest income group demonstrated the highest percentage increase of all groups.

The 2014 study wasn’t unusual. Much prior research has found that those in low income brackets give more as a percentage of income than the wealthy. According to researcher Roger Barnett, “Research in the area has established that, on the average, high income donors give more to charitable causes than do people with low incomes. However, in Britain (and in the United States) the poor have for decades been observed to donate proportionately higher shares of their income to charity than the financially better off (emphasis in the original) (p. 520).

Falwell, Jr.’s college has been helped out in the past by big gifts (e.g., self-proclaimed messiah Sun Myung Moon) so perhaps he is influenced by the big donors. However, as a group, the poor do give and they give a lot. He is wrong and shouldn’t spread this misinformation. If I were a low income donor to Liberty University, I would have to rethink my contribution.