Lights go on in South Australia


ABC The World Today report


The Adelaide Advertiser reports…

“An Adelaide church has left its denomination so it can fully include gay people in its congregation.

The move by Activate Church, at Bowden, which was announced during a service on Sunday, will cost pastor Brad Chilcott his marriage celebrant licence and denominational credentials.

Mr Chilcott said Activate withdrew from the Australian Christian Churches, which has 1100 churches nationwide, in part because the denomination had joined the anti-marriage equality group Marriage Alliance.

He said Activate Church already had members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in leadership positions.

“This puts us outside of the Australian Christian Churches position on human sexuality,” he said.

“In discussions with the ACC it became clear that our membership in the movement couldn’t continue if we were going to have LGBTQI people in positions of leadership — which we did know from the beginning.

“As a community we’re also uncomfortable with membership in the Marriage Alliance and felt unable to be associated, via denominational ties, with that coalition.”

Mr Chilcott said Activate Church hoped to “reflect the character of Jesus and the heart of God” as a welcoming and inclusive community for all people.

While he did not want to align with a group that voiced opposition to gay marriage, he stopped short of saying he supported it.

“This isn’t a decision we’ve made in spite of our faith, but rather because of it,” he said.

“We simply believe that all people are equal and should have equal opportunity to belong and contribute to our church.”

Ben Herdon, 35, was formerly a pastor at another Adelaide church but was told to leave his role after coming out as gay in February.

“I was allowed to stay in the church if I didn’t disclose my sexuality to anyone, but couldn’t be involved in leadership regardless,” he said.

“My relationship with God was important to me and before coming out, I felt I wasn’t able to be 100 per cent with Him.

“There used to be some guilt in how I approached God.”

He said his Christian values did not change regardless of the fact he would pursue a gay relationship.

Olivia Watson, 31, of Rosewater, who is a worship leader at Activate, said it was important to realise the LGBT community was represented in churches and the anti-same-sex marriage rhetoric did not reflect all Christians’ views.

“I understand this can be a divisive issue in churches but, unfortunately, some of the loudest Christian voices we hear in this discussion don’t tend to sound like the voice of Jesus,” she said.

“Churches should be safe and inclusive spaces for all people, regardless of their sexuality or relationship status.”


OMG! Kenneth Copeland is advising Donald Trump


The Washington Post reports…

“Texas televangelist the Rev. Kenneth Copeland, who sits on Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board, urged viewers of his television program to vote, saying that would be held accountable if they don’t.

“You’re going to be guilty of murder,” the charismatic preacher said on the program. “You’re going to be guilty of an abomination of God. You’re going to be guilty for every baby that’s aborted from this election forward.”

The comments come after the Republican presidential candidate’s lewd comments made in a 2005 video were published on Friday by The Washington Post. Trump’s candidacy, already tearing some evangelical families and relationships apart, continued to divide evangelicals since his comments were made public.

Another megachurch pastor who is a member of Trump’s advisory board called the comments “misogynistic trash that reveals a man to be lecherous and worthless,” saying he is no longer willing to offer more of his time without a “change of heart and direction.”

Copeland’s program, which was uploaded to Copeland’s church’s Vimeo page on Sunday, also featured author David Barton, and pastors George Pearsons and Keith Butler to mobilize conservative Christians to vote.

Don’t cut out of the program, Copeland urged viewers. “I mean we could have another eight years of Hillary Clinton and the worst mess anybody could make out of a nation,” he said. A clip of the program was first published by Right Wing Watch. Those on Copeland’s program spent a good portion of it looking at the Democratic Party’s platform, decrying its abortion rights stance.

Conservative evangelical leaders have been divided in their support for Trump, but many have a long history of distrust for Clinton and especially abhor her position advocating for abortion rights. Many are especially concerned that whoever becomes president will appoint Supreme Court justices that will keep Roe v. Wade, the landmark case on abortion, from being overturned.

On the show, Copeland told viewers that God told him during a prayer that He has been dealing with politicians since biblical times and that America is God’s nation.

“This is God’s nation, and nobody is going to take it away from him,” Copeland shouted. “Now I want to get that clear right now, in the name of Jesus. No man, no woman, no Democrat, no Republican, no socialist, no communist can take this nation away from God! I don’t know what it is about that you can’t understand, but I’m telling you right now God Almighty is head of this nation, not people! Jesus of Nazareth is Lord over the United States.”

Kenneth Copeland Ministries is headquartered in Fort Worth, where a review board found that the ministry’s 1,500-acre campus includes a $6 million church-owned lakefront mansion. The Copelands were among the televangelists targeted in a 2007 Senate investigation since their ministry is not required to file a financial disclosure Form 990 with the IRS because it is designated as a church.

Members of Trumps’s evangelical advisory council advise Trump’s campaign on issues that matter to people of faith, how those issues are articulated, including positions on the Supreme Court nominees, national defense and the economy.

It’s still unclear whether the revelation of Trump’s lewd comments has made any difference among evangelicals planning to vote. Evangelicals have in recent decades voted with the Republican Party regardless of misgivings they may have, such as their support of Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, and their support for Ronald Reagan, who was divorced. The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted Sept. 19-22 ahead of the video leak, showed that 52 percent of evangelicals of any race favored Trump, compared with 40 percent who supported Clinton. Among white evangelicals, 71 percent supported Trump while 22 percent supported Clinton.”

New edict from Anglican Kremlin


The Sydney Morning Herald reports…

“The Anglican Church has likened support for legalising same-sex marriage to communism, and claimed its negative social “costs” will match those seen after the introduction of the 1975 no-fault divorce laws that it says created “widespread adultery and divorce.”

The arguments are put forward in draft booklet that suggests ways churchgoers can put forward winning arguments against same-sex marriage and was distributed to the church’s nearly 1000 Synod members on Tuesday.

It was subsequently passed on to Fairfax Media by sources concerned about the influence of the conservative Sydney diocese on the church. The document was issued by the senior Sydney Bishop Michael Stead, the chairman of the Archbishop’s Plebiscite taskforce on gay marriage, who described same-sex marriage as “a long way from the good picture of marriage given to us by Jesus and the Bible.”

Early on Wednesday the Sydney Synod released the document, citing polling saying only 8 per cent of Anglicans supported gay marriages in churches. 

Bishop Stead said the booklet would be “moderate and reasonable and non-defensive, and not narky or hysterical.”

The booklet suggests that if confronted by the argument that marriage has changed before – such as the 1975 introduction of no-fault divorce – its members should argue that such changes have not always been for the better.

“The legal institution of marriage in Australia changed at that point and the result has been widespread infidelity and divorce. And this has come at a big cost – emotional, psychological and economic.

“We opposed those legal changes then, and we’ve been shown right to have done so. In the same way, we oppose the idea of “open” marriages (non-monogamous marriages), “throuples” (polyamorous marriages) and “same-sex marriages” today.”

The leaked booklet also cites child marriage and relationships between relatives as a reason for resisting change.

“Even those pushing for same-sex marriage would not want marriage opened to children or close relatives or more than two people,” the document states.

If faced by the claim that same-sex marriage is “inevitable”, the booklet suggests members cite the rise and fall of communism as an example of where resistance to social trends has prevailed.

“In the 1920s progressives proclaimed communism was inevitable in Australia. Then in the 1950s conservatives said a war on communism was inevitable. As it turned out, they were both wrong,” the document says.

“No one knows the future. In the Asia-Pacific only one country (New Zealand) has introduced same-sex marriage. We’re hearing about it a lot because of what the Supreme Court decided in the United States. But we don’t have to go the way of America.”

Insisting the Anglican Church is for equality, the booklet claims: “equality is not found in the removal of gender diversity in marriage…all that does is devalue someone’s gender.

“It advises opponents of same-sex marriage who feel “silenced” by supporters of change that they could be confronting bigots. “If you ever feel silenced because of your view, it may be the other person who is being the bigot,” the church says.

If faced with the issue of whether the public debate could lead to youth suicide, the pamphlet advises them to use respectful language, similar to that once used by Senator Penny Wong.

“When Senator Penny Wong previously spoke in favour of the traditional definition of marriage (she has since changed her mind) she chose the following words: “On the issue of marriage I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious, historical view around that which we have to respect”. These are calm, respectful words. “

“They certainly aren’t homophobic, given that she is a lesbian woman herself,” the document says.

This week same-sex marriage advocates warned the government’s draft legislation could enshrine discrimination by allowing non-religious marriage celebrants to refuse to marry same-sex couples on “conscientious grounds.”  

The same draft bill also would make it legal for a religious business to refuse gay couples services and venues to celebrate their relationship.

The Labor Party this week formally announced it would not support the Coalition’s plans for a plebiscite following leader Bill Shorten’s warnings that a public debate about gay marriage could cause LGBTI teenagers to commit suicide.

The Church dismissed these fears.

“There is no evidence that public discussions overseas have led to an increase in LGBTI youth suicide.

“The Irish referendum points in the opposite direction, with the overall suicide rate falling in 2014-2015. LGBTI youth have nothing to fear from a respectful public discussion about same-sex marriage.”


Fat fatwa


The Oregonian reports…

“New Creation Church in Hillsboro recently found itself at the center of a controversy when guidelines posted on its website for people seeking to join the “worship team” were posted on Facebook.

Among the requirements for the group of churchgoers who help lead the congregation in songs during services at the non-denominational evangelical church? “No excessive weight.”

“Weight is something that many people have to deal with,” reads the instructions for would-be worship team members. “Make sure that you are taking care of your temple, exercising and eating properly.”

Ponder Anew, a blog about faith, reports that the document was posted on Facebook by “Stuff Christian Culture Likes,” where it received enough negative feedback that it was removed from the church’s website. But a PDF of the worship team guidelines has been preserved online.  

Other points in the list that commenters find objectionable include:

  • “A submissive attitude is very important among the worship team members. Speaking against the leadership will not be tolerated.”
  • “Smoking, use of narcotics or alcohol, swearing, illicit sexual behavior and ongoing family problems are not acceptable in a music minister’s life and will not be tolerated.”
  • “Bodies must be clean and use of effective deodorant is essential to positive interpersonal relationships.”
  • “Remember that the way we look is of utmost importance. We are the first thing the congregation sees. People do judge by appearance. We never get a second chance to  make that first impression. Please be sure that your style and clothing bring honor and glory to God, isn’t excessive and doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself.”

In the document, the church writes, “The purpose of the NCC Worship Team is to edify and build  up the body of Christ by creating an atmosphere for the anointing of God to flow.”

New Creation Church Pastor Rebecca Sundholm says that the guidelines had been on the website for a long time and she said she was “dumbfounded” by the controversy.

“What’s funny is this has nothing to do with anybody else but our church,” said Sundholm over the phone Thursday. “If anybody looked at our worship team, they would see they aren’t all skinny.”

“In fact,” she added, “the worship leader has weight issues.”

Sundholm said the worship leader wrote the guidelines years ago — the church is 28 years old —  and that, “those guidelines aren’t even enforced anymore.”

Still, she said, “We have standards just like anybody would have standards in a business.”

“Don’t come to church with wet hair; if you wear make-up, put it on,” she said. “It’s not negative.”

On Facebook, some people question how Christian it is to not allow overweight people, those who don’t use deodorant, speak up or have “ongoing family problems” to be part of the team.

“Nothing but Old Spice and Weight Watchers can wash away your sins,” wrote one commenter on “Stuff Christian Culture Likes.”

“It’s like Jesus said,” wrote another, “‘don’t be fat.'”

But Sundholm thinks that these commenters don’t really understand her church, since she assumes none of them have actually attended services.

“It’s ridiculous really,” she said. “It’s just so taken out of context.”


Nazarene Church cheats


KSHB reports…

“They loaned their life savings to their church to help with a children’s ministry.
But now the the church is refusing to pay that money back as promised.

Boasting more than two million members around the world, the Church of the Nazarene has its Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, Kan.

While the church is flourishing, a handful of former members are suffering.

And they blame the church.

“I keep saying I’m not going to let it bother me, but deep down, it’s always there, how could they do this to us?” said Gloria Pillsbury.

Pillsbury turned 80 in August, is in poor health and lives only on Social Security.

Beginning in 2004, documents the 41 Action News Investigators obtained show Pillsbury and her husband George, who was a long time Nazarene pastor, loaned a non-profit called “Center on Children” $45,000 at 8 and a half percent interest.

Center on Children was a ministry of the Nazarene Church’s Washington, D.C. District.

Long time pastor and center founder Don Allison says his idea was to set up daycare centers with the hope of also building new churches.

He solicited loans to add new daycare centers with the church’s blessing.

“They were assured they would stand behind that,” Allison said.

He says that investment helped Center on Children grow to serving 500 kids in three states and in bring in $1.4 million in revenue in 2004.

But then the organization lost its first and largest daycare in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Nazarene Church where that daycare was located simply took it over, including the income.

Washington District leaders promised to intervene, but never did.

“Once we lost that financial income, we were not in the position to meet the financial obligations that we had,” said Allison.

Center on Children then disbanded.

26 families, five Nazarene churches and a business altogether loaned that organization $1.5 million.

And they expected the church to cover those loans.

The 41 Action News Investigators obtained a 2003 letter from the Nazarene Church’s Washington District.

It states in the event of any loan default, “the district would step in and resolve either the debt or subsidize its payments”.

“We had absolutely no doubt it was safe, you know it’s our beloved Nazarene Church,” said Gloria. “Of course it’s safe,” she said.

But 15 years after his first of several loans, documents show Jay Kern is owed over $120,000 which includes interest calculations only to 2010.

“I’m terribly disappointed and I’m no longer a part of the Church of the Nazarene and I probably won’t ever be,” Kern said.

To try to get their unpaid loans, Gloria brought her gravely ill husband George in a wheelchair to the Nazarene Church’s massive new Global Ministry Center in Lenexa.

It was built at a cost of more than $30 million.

Gloria says church leaders verbally promised to make sure they were repaid, but it never happened.

The 41 Action News Investigators went to the center to find out why.

General Secretary Doctor David Wilson said the unpaid loans were a Mid Atlantic District matter which encompasses the old Washington District.

The 41 Action News Investigators asked Wilson if it’s the policy of church leaders to stiff people when they borrow money from them.

“Of course not,” Wilson replied.

When we noted some people have documented proof their loans haven’t been repaid after 15 years, Wilson replied, “Allegedly so”.

The 41 Action News Investigators also spoke with Mid Atlantic District Superintendent David Bowser on the phone.

He declined comment.

It’s already too late for George Pillsbury to get his life savings returned.

He died in 2013.

When the 41 Action News Investigators asked Wilson if these unpaid loans seemed very Christian or fair, he replied,

“If that is all true what you’re saying, if that is all true, you’re right if that is all true.”

When asked if he didn’t think it was true, Wilson said, “I don’t know if it is or not”.

The Pillsbury family also tried to take the matter to court.

But after several delays, a judge ruled the loan terms were beyond the statute of limitations, so the case was dropped.

“How can they sleep at night knowing that they owe all these people, I can’t understand it,” Gloria said.

Documents show Center on Children Founder Don Allison also loaned the organization money.

While he’d like to get his investment returned, he says it’s more important for everyone else to be made whole.”

Archbishop stands aside


The ABC reports…

“Roger Herft has temporarily stood aside as Anglican Archbishop of Perth.

In a letter to parishioners, Archbishop Herft said he would stand aside with immediate effect, to “focus my attention on the royal commission’s ongoing inquiry into the Diocese of Newcastle”.

The Archbishop gave evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in August.

He finished his testimony with an apology to the people of Newcastle, where he served as bishop between 1993 and 2005.

He said he would stand aside from all duties including ordinations, pastoral visits, public functions, correspondence and related engagements.

“I have taken this decision after much prayer, thought and consultation with my advisors to allow for the mission and ministry of the Diocese of Perth to flourish,” he wrote.

“I am humbled by the courage and fortitude of survivors and victims of child sexual abuse as they continue to bear witness to their stories of suffering.”

Archbishop Herft said it was a “challenging time for us all” and his decision had been made “after much prayer, thought and consultation with my advisers”.

He has been Archbishop of Perth since 2005, but has been on long service leave since finishing his royal commission testimony.

In his evidence at the royal commission, Archbishop Herft denied protecting de-frocked former Newcastle priest Graeme Lawrence, who was accused of child sexual abuse.

He also said he would not report child sexual abuse allegations if he did not know the name of the alleged victim.

Wrapping up his testimony, he said he had let down the people of Newcastle.

“I let them down badly. Let down the survivors in a way that remorse itself is a very poor emotion to express,” he told the commission.

The commission is probing the response to widespread paedophile activity in Newcastle’s Anglican Church spanning several decades.

Archbishop Herft was awarded an Order of Australia in 2013 for service to the church, particularly in the areas of interfaith relations and social justice.

A spokeswoman for the church said Archbishop Herft’s decision to stand aside from all duties was a temporary move.”



Stuart Robert and Watoto


The Sydney Morning Herald reports…

“Turnbull government MP Stuart Robert has close ties to an African church that supports harsh anti-gay laws and is run by a preacher described as “one of the most homophobic people in the world”.

Mr Robert was a founding director of Watoto Australia, an offshoot of the Ugandan-based pentecostal Watoto Church, and has called church leader Gary Skinner one of the “great influences” on his life.

Watoto is a popular force in Uganda, preaching to 24,000 people across 11 churches and helping children orphaned by war and AIDS. Mr Skinner’s wife Marilyn also advocates for women’s rights.

It’s also behind the Watoto Choir, an acclaimed children’s choir that tours the world. It just finished a tour of Australia last week.

But the church has a darker side.

Gay and lesbian activists say Watoto and Mr Skinner are virulently anti-gay and have contributed to violent homophobia in Uganda. Mr Robert – who was also a member of Watoto’s International Board – has travelled to the Ugandan capital Kampala many times to meet Mr Skinner, who says homosexuality is “degrading” and an “inhuman sin” that brings disease and destroys families.

On at least two occasions Mr Robert charged taxpayers for the travel, with the bill totalling almost $20,000. On two other occasions he declared free travel to Africa on his register of interests, paid for by Watoto.

In 2006, Mr Robert self-published a book about the church called Hope: The Watoto Journey. Mr Robert only resigned his directorship when he became a minister in the Abbott government in 2013.

Mr Skinner’s church also advocates the “reform” and “reintegration” into society of gay people. On its website, Watoto Church says it “adheres to the biblical standard of sexuality” which means “it is a gift from God to be enjoyed only within the confines of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage relationship”.

It also says it is in favour of “pro-family legislation that reflects and preserves this biblical standard”.

This “pro-family legislation” has included Uganda’s notorious “kill the gays” bill. Gay rights campaigners say Watoto and Mr Skinner supported the harsh anti-gay bill that drew widespread international condemnation – even in its original incarnation, when it included the death penalty.

The church asked congregants to sign a petition in support of the bill, which the US has called “atrocious” and compared to the anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany and apartheid in South Africa.

The bill was eventually passed without the death penalty included, instead imposing a life sentence for homosexuality. The new version of the bill – which also imposes seven-year prison terms for “aiding and abetting” homosexuals – was annulled by the country’s constitutional court but only on procedural grounds. Proponents are agitating to resurrect it.

One of Uganda’s top gay rights advocates, Frank Mugisha, labelled Mr Skinner “one of the most homophobic people in the world”. But he says Mr Skinner’s charitable work makes him popular and therefore influential.

The Nobel Peace Prize nominee says while Mr Skinner has not been a public proponent of anti-gay laws his church has supported them strongly. He has also supported, endorsed and hosted anti-gay preachers from abroad who have come into Uganda to whip up homophobic sentiment.

“The church has supported anti-gay Christians like Stephen Langa, one of the key supporters of the anti-gay laws,” Dr Mugisha, a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for his advocacy, told Fairfax Media. “Skinner was also one of the people who invited Lou Engle to Africa.”

Mr Langa is a Watoto Church elder who has been one of the driving forces behind the anti-gay legislation, publicly and behind the scenes.

He has referred to the LGBTI community as the “kingdom of Satan”, believes there is a homosexual plot to take over the world and has close ties to a range of virulently anti-gay American preachers.

He was the chief organiser of a now notorious March 2009 conference that gave a platform to three American evangelical preachers who claimed wealthy Westerners were trying to bribe Ugandan children into becoming gay.

Dr Mugisha and others say this conference was a watershed moment that whipped up anti-gay hysteria. Just one month later Ugandan MP David Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to rid the country of “homos”.

One of the speakers at the conference was Scott Lively, who reportedly also sermonised at Watoto. He is the author of Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, which seeks to blame gays for the Holocaust.

He subsequently bragged that his appearance in Uganda was like a “nuclear bomb” against the “gay agenda” in Africa.

Langa and Lively were subsequently named as co-conspirators in a lawsuit over an alleged plot to deprive Ugandan gays of their human rights, brought by Dr Mugisha’s Sexual Minorities in Uganda.

The case is ongoing in the US courts.

Mr Skinner was one of the official endorsers of New Apostolic Reformation prophet Lou Engle’s TheCall rally in Kampala in 2010.

Mr Engle says homosexuality comes from “the gates of hell” and has advice for anyone struggling with gay desires: “Let the Bible kill you”.

A spokesman for Mr Robert said he was a director of Watoto Australia for almost a decade on an “unpaid and voluntary basis”. He said Mr Robert has visited Africa more than a dozen times to work in refugee camps and AIDS treatment centres, on orphan programs and with micro-economic training companies.

“He and his family have personally funded and built a number of homes for orphaned children and spent over a decade working for the betterment of orphaned children,” the spokesman said.

“Gary Skinner’s views are a matter for him.”

The spokesman later said Mr Robert was not aware of Mr Skinner’s views and did not support them.

Mr Robert is strongly against same-sex marriage, and has used Parliamentary speeches to rail against “gay IVF” and proclaim that “homosexual relationships are far more unstable than heterosexual ones”.

“Nothing should be done by any Parliament to make it likely that more children will be raised by same-sex couples,” he said in 2008.

In media interviews, he has described Watoto as a “truly special place” and “a thing of beauty”.

Mr Skinner, who grew up in a white missionary family in Zimbabwe, is a regular visitor to Australia.

He has been a guest preacher at the pentecostal Hillsong Church in Sydney. Hillsong supports Watoto financially, donating $720,000 to Mr Skinner during a 2007 visit.

Watoto Australia raises more than $3 million a year for the church. Last year, the church raised $48 million worldwide.

In the United States, the LGBTI community has petitioned to keep Mr Skinner and the Watoto Choir out of the country.

American pastor Louie Giglio withdrew from participating in President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony following uproar from gay rights activists over his stance on homosexuality – including his ties to Watoto.

Comment was sought from both the Watoto Church and Watoto Australia.”