Fatal church beating – updated*


The Utica Observer-Dispatch reports…

“After the final four Word of Life Christian Church defendants appeared in Oneida County Court on Friday, all those charged in the brutal beatings had either pleaded guilty or were found guilty of their crimes.

Nine members of the church, including the teens’ parents, originally were charged for their roles in an October 2015 so-called counseling session that killed Lucas Leonard, 19, and left his now-18-year-old brother Christopher Leonard severely injured.

The boys were whipped with an electrical cord on their stomachs, genitals, backs and thighs for as many as 14 hours “in hopes that each would confess their prior sins and ask for forgiveness,” police have said.

“We really had to look at and consider how much trauma we wanted to put the family through,” said Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara following the proceeding. Judge Michael Dwyer briefly lifted an imposed gag order so that McNamara could explain the pleas to the media.

“I can only hope that Luke can rest in peace, Chris can get on with his life and as can (sister) Grace and the whole Leonard family,” he continued. “This is a terrible tragedy.”

On Friday, Pastor Tiffanie Irwin, 30, pleaded guilty to two felonies: third-degree manslaughter in the death of Lucas Leonard and felony second-degree assault of Christopher Leonard. She’ll face 12 years in state prison and will be sentenced Monday, Dec. 19.

Irwin requested to be in the courtroom while the remaining defendants — her brother Joseph Irwin, 23, Linda Morey, 55, and her son David Morey, 27 — accepted pleas. The trio, shackled and in orange jumpsuits, entered the courtroom together.

Both Moreys pleaded to two counts of felony second-degree assault and will face five-year prison sentences. They’ll be sentenced Monday, Jan. 9.

Joseph Irwin accepted eight years in prison as he pleaded guilty to felony first-degree gang assault and second-degree assault. He will be sentenced Monday, Dec. 19.

Previously, the teens’ mother, Deborah Leonard, 60, and father, Bruce Leonard, 66, pleaded guilty to first- and second-degree assault. Traci Irwin and her son Daniel Irwin accepted plea offers to two years in county jail on two counts of felony first-degree unlawful imprisonment.

Sarah Ferguson, the teens’ sister, was tried in June and found guilty of first-degree manslaughter, two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree gang assault. She was sentenced to 25 years in state prison.

Joseph Irwin denies being ‘chief jailer’

Beside a quip from Tracie Irwin that she wasn’t “physically” threatened to make the plea, everyone except Joseph Irwin accepted the agreements without contest.

Dwyer told Joseph Irwin that the only way he would accept his guilty plea is if he admits to the prosecution’s allegations that his role in the beatings included keeping the teens in the church, separating them for interrogations and demanding they stand for more beatings.

“You’ve heard the others admit their responsibility,” Dwyer said, narrowing his eyes at Irwin.

McNamara said Irwin acted as “chief jailer” and was “the one” who arranged for the teens to be questioned about how they got into half-sister Sarah Ferguson’s apartment and what they did to her children.

“I didn’t hold them,” Irwin said between sobs. “I pushed Christopher to the floor before they had whipped them, but I didn’t stay. I can say yes (to the allegations) … but I wasn’t there. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Shortly after, a woman from the gallery screamed at McNamara calling him a liar. She was quickly removed from the courtroom.

After a brief conference at the judge’s bench, Dwyer accepted Irwin’s plea without making him admit to anything other than hitting each boy once and being present during the beatings.”

From http://www.uticaod.com/news/20161021/word-of-life-church-pastor-pleads-guilty-to-manslaughter


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.”

From http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/activate-church-leaves-australian-christian-churches-denomination-to-stand-by-gay-leaders/news-story/6d0821b1e6d69c822d462866aa399390

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.”

From http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/gay-marriage-like-nofault-divorce-claims-anglican-church-in-leaked-document-20161012-gs11wy.html

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.”

From http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2016/10/no_excessive_weight_says_hills.html

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.”

From http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-10/roger-herft-stands-aside-as-anglican-archbishop-of-perth/7918798