Happy Blog Anniversary to Me #15

Fifteen years ago tomorrow, I started this blog with these words:

This is a test, nothing but a test. A test of your routine blogcasting network.

I didn’t know what I was doing, but with the encouragement of a former pastor Byron Harvey, I launched into the wild world of blogging. I started out on the old Blogspot platform and then moved to WordPress in 2006. I moved from there to Patheos in 2013, just in time to cover the demise of Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia. When Patheos decided I was too hot to handle, I moved really quickly back to this independent format on WordPress. Since 2005, I have written 5,010 posts according to WordPress backroom counter.

To celebrate, tomorrow I start a series of blogcast video interviews with people who are associated with topics I have covered over 15 years. I started out writing about sexual orientation therapy and research. Then the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill became a cause and international story in 2009. I started writing about and debunking David Barton’s and other historical claims in 2011. In late 2013, I took up the demise of Mars Hill Church and followed that until it closed in 2014. In 2015, I started writing about Gospel for Asia. Now I write about evangelical misadventures, debunk fake quotes,  and examine a little bit of anything touching on the topics I have covered from the beginning.

I think some readers will be surprised at some of the people I interview, but they all will be worth tuning in to hear. These will be taped, last about an hour and posted about once a week over the next couple of months. Tomorrow I start with an interview of Michael Coulter, my co-author of Getting Jefferson Right.

I am pretty sure there are some readers who have been here since the beginning. In any case, let me know when you started reading and what topic(s) brought/keep you here.

Happy Anniversary to Me #14

Fourteen years ago today, I started this blog with these words:

This is a test, nothing but a test. A test of your routine blogcasting network.

I didn’t know what I was doing, but with the encouragement of my former pastor Byron Harvey, I launched into the wild world of blogging. I started out on the old Blogspot platform and then moved to WordPress in 2006. I moved from there to Patheos in 2013, just in time to cover the demise of Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia. When Patheos decided I was too hot to handle, I moved really quickly back to this independent format on WordPress. Since 2005, I have written 4,865 posts according to WordPress backroom counter.

Maybe when I hit some milestone like 15 years, I’ll throw a party. For now, I noticed the date while looking up some old posts and thought I would quietly remember the occasion. Some readers have been along since near the beginning and some more recently. Perhaps regular readers could indicate when you started following the blog and what story or topic brought you in. I appreciate you, your tips, and feedback.

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

In 2017, the following ten posts received the most page views:
10. K-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music (2017)
9. Former Newsping Pastor Perry Noble Incorporates Second Change Church (2017)
8. American College of Pediatricians v. American Academy of Pediatrics: Who Leads and Who Follows? (2011)
7. After the Demise of Mars Hill Church Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations (2017)
6. IRS and Postal Service Agents on Scene at Benny Hinn’s Office (2017)
5. Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church (2017)
4. A Major Study of Child Abuse and Homosexuality Revisited (2009)
3. Former CFO at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists (2015)
2. What’s Going on at Harvest Bible Fellowship? James MacDonald Resigns as President of HBF (2017)
and the #1 post is:

  1. Open Letter to Gateway Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church (2014)

 
Some past posts have aged well. The 2009 post regarding child abuse and non-heterosexuality has been in the top ten nearly every year since 2009.counseling image 2 Readers continue to be interested in Mars Hill Church and various players surrounding the demise of that church.
Although the page views don’t show it, the story that continues to be covered here and almost nowhere else is the Gospel for Asia saga. The target of federal scrutiny and two RICO lawsuits in the U.S., GFA has also initiated and been involved in various legal actions in India. Although the scope of the GFA empire dwarfs other organizations I have examined, it continues to fly along under the radar.
For a profile of my work and the role blogging has played in it, see this lengthy article by Jon Ward in Yahoo News earlier this month.

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The learn more about the sexual identity therapy framework, go here.

Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan: Welcome to Patheos!

Allow me to be among the first to welcome Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan to Patheos!
Mark Driscoll announced his new blog today via the Patheos Evangelical Facebook page. Watch:

Judging from a couple of tweets I have seen (for instance here), he must have announced on Twitter too. I wouldn’t know it since he blocked me a long time ago after I wrote a few articles about him and his former church.

Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014
Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014

We are now practically neighbors!
K.P. Yohannan isn’t as well known as Driscoll in the U.S. but he is the Most Reverend Eminence in India.
Pope KP2It will be interesting to see if Yohannan blogs about his organization’s legal troubles and trial preparations.  It will give readers a couple of different perspectives to read about it there and here.
Having Yohannan and Driscoll in the family makes me wonder when David Barton and Eric Metaxas plan to join up.
Kumbaya!

Dear Fred Clark: Thanks But I Think John Fea and I Are in Good Shape

Fellow Patheos blogger Fred Clark (Slacktivist) is worried for Messiah College prof John Fea and me. He says:

But I’m worried for both of them. Specifically, I’m worried because this is an election year and that means that the ever-shifting goalposts of the white evangelical tribal gatekeepers may well shift between now and November. Depending on the outcome of the upcoming Republican presidential primary races, the bounds of theological acceptability could shift in such a way that both of these fine professors may end up on the outside looking in.

I like Fred and appreciate his blog so his post deserves attention and I encourage you to read it. I appreciate his kind words and positive assessment of my work here.
He’s worried because Ted Cruz is doing well in the polls. Cruz is supported in no small way by David Barton. Barton appears to be Cruz’s evangelical endorsement broker and runs one of Cruz’s Super PACs. Both John and I have written in honest terms about Barton’s revisions of American history as well as his problems with more current events (e.g., Barton’s claim that Obama’s administration has not prosecuted child porn).
Fred thinks we may be in some jeopardy since we both teach at conservative Christian schools. I sincerely appreciate his concern. In a day when Wheaton College is moving against a tenured professor for her religious beliefs, I guess it looks like anything can happen.

SlacktivistLogo
From http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist

Fea thinks he is ok, and I suspect he is right. I feel pretty confident that I am in good shape as well. I am not a stranger to efforts to silence me by pressuring my employer, it has happened on more than one occasion before, coming from both the far right and the left. Grove City College’s leadership has leaned on academic freedom as a value and I keep on writing. While I take nothing for granted, I have appreciated GCC’s stance on these matters through the years.
Leaving aside our employers, I think Clark sees something real when he discusses “the ever-shifting goalposts of the white evangelical tribal gatekeepers.” A Cruz win would shift the party dramatically toward the Christian dominionist view of the world. Although I consider myself generally conservative, many in the far right consider me to be a moderate. I honestly think Ronald Reagan would be considered a moderate in today’s GOP.
Having said that, I think John and I are fine. I have already gone on record as saying Cruz isn’t a good choice for the GOP. I will say that even if he turns out to be the GOP’s choice.
And besides, if something does happen and I have to start another life, Clark says I have potential to make a switch:

Throckmorton can be a tenacious pitbull when he sniffs out a story. Check out his ongoing series examining financial irregularities at the mission agency Gospel for Asia — it’s an impressive, dogged pursuit of answers to important questions. In another life, Throckmorton would have made a fearsome investigative journalist.

I could start by investigating why Ted Cruz appeared at an event coordinated by his Super PAC, especially when the event seemed designed to collect and schedule candidate endorsements.
 

Top Ten Posts in 2015

The ten top posts during 2015 are as follows with the most popular first:
1. Open Letter to Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church – This was posted on November 2, 2014 but remained popular throughout 2015. Driscoll recently joined Jimmy Evans as a director to form The Trinity Church in Phoenix.
2. Former Chief Financial Officer at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists – This story about David Jeremiah’s questionable tactics from a former insider was a scoop but not one which stuck to Jeremiah like  a similar scandal did to Mark Driscoll.
3. Hillsong’s Brian Houston Interviewed Mark and Grace Driscoll After All (VIDEO) (AUDIO) – First, he said he would interview Driscoll, then he said he wouldn’t, then Brian Houston aired an interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll. It was great theatre but didn’t draw good reviews from former Mars Hill leavers.
4. A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited – This post from 2009 is one of the most popular articles in the history of the blog. In it, I demonstrate a key mistake in a journal article often used to link homosexuality and child abuse.
5. Southern Baptists Say Enough to Perry Noble and NewSpring Church – I am surprised that this post got so much attention.
6. Gospel for Asia Faces Allegations of Misconduct; GFA Board Investigation Found No Wrongdoing – The GFA story received the most attention from me this year.
7. Pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian Says Church Reaction to Hiring Tullian Tchividjian is “Overwhelmingly Positive” – I briefly covered Tullian Tchividjian’s comeback as a development minister at a PCA church in FL.
8. A Few Thoughts on The Village Church Controversy – Village Church’s leadership apologized for their response to a young woman who sought a divorce from her husband who had admitted having child porn.
9. Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Issues Statement On Mark Driscoll at the Hillsong 2015 Conference – Mark Driscoll’s return to the spotlight garnered much reader attention.
10. Gospel for Asia’s K.P. Yohannan and the Ring Kissing Ritual – While the financial scandals were of interest to readers, this article ranked higher than the money problems.
To fully capture activity on the blog, one should consider the Gospel for Asia scandals (Patheos considered my coverage as a part of one of their top ten Evangelical stories of 2015).
It has been a good year and I thank my readers and those who support the blog with their comments and regular visits.

Patheos Links of Interest: Kirk Franklin, Anxious Bench, Godless in Dixie, Stacy Dash, Kyle Roberts

Reading an Anxious Bench post by Thomas Kidd, it occurred to me that Patheos is a very diverse site. With that in mind, I decided to go exploring. Here I am going to post some links I found interesting. I am not recommending everything said by these authors but am posting them because I think they might be of interest to readers.
Should Evangelicals Embrace the “Benedict Option”? Well, should they/we?
We Love Close Calls… Until They Happen to Us – Nice devotional post on waiting through hard times by Kirk Franklin. Wait, what? Kirk Franklin blogs at Patheos?! Nice.
I Was Wrong – Stacy Dash apologized for her defense of Bill Cosby.
Stop Saying that Teaching Children Creationism is Child Abuse – A good one from the Atheist channel’s Neil Carter.
“Can We Go Home, Now?” My Mom, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Our Longing for Home Kyle Roberts on the Progressive channel writes a truly touching reflection on his mom’s wish to go home.
I hope to go exploring more often…

Christianity Today on Whistleblowing Blogs

This month marks 10 years of blogging. Nice to start the month with some favorable press over at Christianity Today.
Michelle Van Loon and Marlena Graves link to this blog in their story on whistleblower and watchdog blogs. In addition to this blog, they link to Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, Recovering Grace, and the blog of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment).*
Van Loon speaks from personal experience of dealing with a cover up in a church. She sees the benefits of confronting obvious problems when others want to pretend nothing is wrong. Leader worship is a prominent aspect of why people in the pews don’t reflect more on the truth of the messages being delivered. Van Loon says:

When I see someone suggest those harboring hurt or suspicion toward the church are in sin, or that fellow believers would do best to ignore whistleblowers, my internal alarm sounds. Unquestioning allegiance to any earthly leader, even in the church, has proven in many cases hurtful rather than helpful.

Graves follow by highlighting the cost of speaking up.

When working for a Christian organization that many saw going in a troubling direction, we said something. We submitted our criticism, attended meetings, and talked to leaders at each level. Initially, we trusted the proper protocols and official channels set up to give and receive feedback. But not only did those in charge fail to address our concerns, they began enacting policies to punish those who spoke up.

Currently, insiders at Gospel for Asia are telling me that leaders are ordering the students and staff not to read my blog. Mark Driscoll called the blog information “shenanigans” and some Mars Hill leaders discouraged blog reading. David Barton regularly misrepresents me and my motivations to his audience. One mark of an insecure, and often controlling, organization is the use of sanctions to block members from learning opposing views.
In the cases of Mars Hill and GFA, those injunctions from leaders triggered many to read the blog anyway. Some stay away out of fear, but others find information that is being obscured from stakeholders/members by their leaders. For this reason alone, many bloggers perform a valuable function for the organization’s members.
* There are other blogs I would add to this list, particular this one: Wenatchee the Hatchet.

My Blog Turns Ten This Month

Happy Birthday LogoOn June 30, this blog will turn 10.  We should have a party.
There may be a few readers who are still with me and I hope to hear from them. Unfortunately in the move to Patheos, many of the old comments did not make the migration.
Initially, the main topic of interest was a defense of reorientation therapy, but it wasn’t long before I shifted to a vocal critic. Over the years, I have covered a variety of topics from voter fraud in Ohio to debunking bad history to more recently Mars Hill Church.
Starting this week, I will revisit some of the more popular posts from the first ten years. Through the summer I hope to bring out representative blasts from the past.
In the comments, I invite readers to name your favorite posts.
Hope you enjoy the party!