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Noah’s Ark 1500-seat restaurant and gift shop reports…

“He’s been described as evangelist, an inspiration, a creationist, a Christian apologetic, dangerous religious fanatic, a science-denier and the Australian Noah.

Ken Ham used to be a Brisbane science teacher. Three decades on, he’s one of the most polarising and powerful religious leaders in America’s Bible Belt.

Ham believes evolution is a fraud, the world is only 6000 years old and was created in six days, the Book of Genesis is historical fact and homosexuality is a sin.

Now, the founder and president of Answers In Genesis (AiG) has built a life-size Noah’s ark.

The privately funded $100 million monolith in Kentucky is seven storeys high, about 200m long and the biggest timber-framed structure on the planet.

Ham says Ark Encounter is “one of the greatest Christian outreaches of our era” and will attract up to two million Christians and non-Christians a year when it opens in July.

Call Ken Ham crazy if you like. Just don’t call him the messiah.

Sunday Night journalist Steve Pennells learned that when he met Ham and toured his controversial creation.

“This has been his obsession. A lot of people thought he was crazy. A lot of people still think he’s crazy, but now he’s a crazy guy with a $100 million ark,” Pennells says.

Ham’s critics say he’s a fanatic selling a dangerously mind-bending view of world history. His fervent supporters — and in Middle America’s conservative Christian Bible Belt there are many — believe he is Christian warrior in a spiritual war who can lead people back to a fundamentalist way of life.

When asked if he was a messiah, Ham, 64, didn’t quite bristle, but “he was taken aback”, Pennells says.

In a blog post, afterwards, Ham, 64, fired up.

“I’ve never in my life been asked anything like that. The Messiah is our Creator and our Saviour, Jesus Christ,” he wrote.

He said the blasphemous statement had come from one of his most vocal critics, Bill “the Science Guy” Nye, who says Ham is “scientifically illiterate” and challenges him at every turn to debunk his teachings.

The pair famously squared off in a fiery evolution versus creation debate which went viral two years ago.

“Bill Nye falsely accuses me of being “The Messiah” cause he doesn’t like me proclaiming the message of the Messiah,” he continued.

His ark may be a build of biblical proportions, but Ham isn’t the evangelistic, fire-and-brimstone personality you’d expect.

He advocates Biblical literalism. He genuinely believes Noah marched in those animals two-by-two, but Pennells says “he is a straight-talking Australian bloke from Queensland”.

“I wouldn’t even say he very charismatic. He’s an everyday bloke from Australia who believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible. It’s his rule book for life,” says Pennells.

“Every question Bill Nye raises, Ham’s reply is “there’s a book that explains that, it’s called the Bible.

“And in conservative America, he has found a lot of kindred spirits. That is a mainstream view over there, not a fringe movement over there — they are rooted in conservatism and their Christian roots.

“Whatever you think of what he says, he believes it and he’s got an army of people behind him who believe it too. In that scene, he’s a rock star.”

One thing beyond doubt is Ham’s business acumen.

He might have used the Bible and the cubit measurements chronicled in it as his instruction manual for the ark — but we’re betting Noah’s original didn’t include a 1500-seat restaurant and gift shop for tourists and shuttle-buses like Ham’s version does.

“Someone said to me: ‘In America one of the biggest sins is not being good at business’. Ken Ham is not guilty of that sin,” says Pennells.

The ark has been very deliberately positioned in the middle of Kentucky, near the major interstate highway, and a 90-minute flight away for most middle Americans.

It’s Christian missionary strategy, with a 2016 twist.

“In the battle for souls in this era, you go big, Hollywood-style,” says Pennells.

The ark is the biggest monument in Ham’s multi-million religious empire — Ham is also an author, has a radio show, and is the darling of the Middle America homeschooling sector.

Those who work with Ham must sign a statement of faith, indicating they believe the same as AiG: in creationism, the earth is only 6000 years old, the Bible is fact, the lot.”

Ham says the ark is “the most wholesome, family-friendly God-honouring facility around”.

His critics say it is yet another monument to a belief they says is increasingly permeating the community as fact, and eschewing and mocking scientific fact.

Debate aside, the ark is impressive.

“No matter what you think of the guy, you walk through the bowels of that ark and you think this is phenomenal,” Pennells says.

No, it doesn’t float although when it began to rain during his tour, Pennells asked: “does this thing work?”.

Ham referred to Genesis in his answer.”




Worship leader wears a mask


Christian Examiner reports…

“The non-stop hysterical laughter is so contagious it has people all over the world – an estimated [113 million and counting] or so – watching the 30-something woman in a Star Wars Chewbacca mask wondering how a kid’s toy could bring such joy.

Candace Payne, whose May 19 viral Facebook video about purchasing the mask at a local department store and trying it on for the first time inside her car in the parking lot, has the attention not only of avid Star Wars fans, but also of those who desperately need a good laugh, she said.

And that’s where her faith comes in, Payne told Christian Examiner in an exclusive telephone interview.

In hiding, with her phone dying, the mom of two who has done stand-up comedy, said there’s more to the woman than a mask, and her laughter comes from deep within – from her faith in Jesus Christ.

“As far as the joy aspect, it is much deeper than the Chewbacca mask,” Payne said. “It was fun watching it go viral and fun watching people get some joy out of it, too,” but at the core of real joy is faith.

Payne, a worship leader since age 14, sings, plays the guitar and writes music.

She and her husband of 15 years met in church and found their “love story” there and have volunteered in student ministry together since then. They worship with their two children at a church southwest of Dallas.

“We have a heart for our local church and just being obedient to God in the way we raise our kids and love our friends,” Payne said.

Surprisingly, Payne said besides the private messages she has received from fans who want to be “best friends” and “watch Star Wars together,” she has also been told by others they have struggled with depression and anxiety and been uplifted by the video.

“I haven’t laughed in the two months since my dad died,” Payne recalled one message. Another said: “I haven’t had a gut wrenching laugh in two years.”

“If I am going to say anything … our world that we live in has a dark cloud over us that keeps us feeling like we can’t ever experience deep joy daily,” Payne said. “It really is about thanking God for every single thing we have. When you have a heart that is grateful, we laugh more.”

Paraphrasing, Payne reference John 10:10: ” The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (NASB)”

People often confuse joy with laughter, Payne said, but joy doesn’t mean that. Indeed, “you will cry more; feel and hunger for thing passionately (when you have faith in Christ); you will experience joy at a fuller level you will ever think possible.”

“Joy will radiate that faith,” Payne said, just like when inside the mask, she was radiating faith “from Jesus who promises me I will have a fuller life.”

“When people see that they are attracted to Jesus and His fullness and everybody love that, every loves that,” she repeated.

Payne introduced the video, which has gained tens of thousand of viewers every hour since, with the message, “It’s the simple joys in life….”



The scourge of church-run recovery programs


The Des Moines Register reports…

“The pastor of a Spencer church has resigned amid questions about a faith-based addiction treatment program he helped run.

Kevin Grimes, 51, was pastor of DaySpring Assembly of God and helped found the Spencer Dream Center, which opened last year. Tom Morse, who is on the boards of the church and the center, said Thursday that Grimes resigned from both organizations Wednesday evening.

“At this moment, that is all I can say,” Morse said, declining comment about Grimes’ reasons for quitting.

Earlier this month, a Des Moines Register story recounted how Dream Center participant Alex Jacobsen tried to commit suicide in January by slashing his throat 10 days after counselors told him to quit taking psychiatric medications prescribed by medical professionals. The story noted the center is unregulated because it is a faith-based program.

Grimes could not be reached for comment Thursday. He told the Register a few weeks ago that Jacobsen’s suicide attempt showed the small program wasn’t equipped to treat mental illness.

He said at the time the program has since changed its rules, so a doctor would have to assure counselors any potential participant had been off mood-altering medications for at least a year. He said he was saddened by Jacobsen’s suicide attempt and grateful that another pastor was able to save the 26-year-old’s life.

Some Iowa psychiatrists and mental health advocates told the Register that programs marketing themselves as drug treatment should at least be prohibited from requiring cessation of psychiatric medications. But Gov. Terry Branstad expressed skepticism about adding regulations on faith-based programs, noting that people have a choice about which programs to attend.

Jacobsen was not immediately available for comment about the pastor’s resignation. The young man’s family recently told the Register he went through treatment at a Sioux City program and has returned home.

Dream Center lawyer Don Hemphill confirmed Grimes had quit the church and the center, but he declined other comment.”


The bizarre ‘Carl Lentz transgender’ video


“Apostle Laura Lee

Apostle of the Church of Philadelphia. (The Church of Philadelphia is a non-institutional church. Non-institutional apostolic ministry is ministry of the Word of God and prayer.  Specific call to release the endtime revelation sealed to the end in the book The Lost Story; found and direct Grace Explosion Prayer Center 24/7 II Chronicles 7:14 prayer; and restore the Upper Room Meeting dynamic of Acts to initiate the endtime move of the Spirit in the apostolic commission thereof.)

Spirit-filled Reformed Anabaptist systematic theologian restoring apostolic power of early church. Releasing full revelation of eternal whole counsel plan of God; reformation of church to Kingdom non-institutional spiritual body; ZION rising; ministering endtime move.”


Youth pastor fired for Nazi flag



WZVN reports…

“A North Naples community was outraged over a youth pastor’s raising of a Nazi flag for hundreds to see.

And now, the pastor is apologizing.

“To the veterans of my community, the Jewish people – who fought so hard to eradicate that symbol and its ideology – I had no right to do that,” John Gursoy said.

It happened on Saturday morning at the Quarry, a gated community near Collier Boulevard and Immokalee Road.

Gursoy said he was upset after receiving a letter demanding he remove a boat with a two-stroke engine from the community lake after a recent decision by the homeowners association to begin enforcing a ban on them. He said, at the time, comparing the board to Nazi Germany seemed like a good idea.

Neighbors didn’t agree.

“A Nazi flag! That is a sign of hatred and a sign of millions of people getting killed for that,” said Megan Jerzyk. “I got out of the car and was trying to rip down the streamers. I said, ‘This is just horrible that somebody has done this!'”

She and several others began calling the Collier County Sheriff’s Office demanding someone remove the flag, and about 40 people complained on a community thread called

“That’s a universal sign of hatred and bad things in the world,” Tim Jerzek said. “And everyone knows that.”

CCSO said they told Gursoy to remove the flag, and he did. 

County code enforcement is looking into the incident because the equipment used to raise the flag came from Gursoy’s landscaping company.

“It was in very bad taste and I realized that very quickly that that was not an appropriate symbol,” he said. “I apologize for the methodology and departing from my faith-based principles of how to handle something in a more graceful way.”

Celebration Community Church fired Gursoy from his position.

“I did explain to the kids that what I did was wrong and to the church,” he said.”


Pastor admits cake hoax


KEYE reports…

Pastor Jordan Brown, who filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods last month claiming it had written a homophobic slur on a cake he ordered, announced Monday that he has dropped his lawsuit and issued the following statement:

Today I am dismissing my lawsuit against Whole Foods Market. The company did nothing wrong. I was wrong to pursue this matter and use the media to perpetuate this story. I want to apologize to Whole Foods and its team members for questioning the company’s commitment to its values, and especially the bakery associate who I understand was put in a terrible position because of my actions. I apologize to the LGBT community for diverting attention from real issues. I also want to apologize to my partner, my family, my church family, and my attorney.

The attorney for Brown says he ordered a cake from the Whole Foods store on Lamar Boulevard with the personalized message “Love Wins,” but when he received the cake it said “Love Wins F**.”

In a YouTube video, Brown said he didn’t realize what it said until he got into his vehicle. In the video he showed the box containing the cake was still sealed. Brown says when he told store management what happened, they said their employee did not do it and no action would be taken.

Whole Foods responded by releasing security video it says shows Brown buying the cake. The company says that “after reviewing our security footage of Mr. Brown, it’s clear that the UPC label was in fact on top of the cake box, not on the side of the package. This is evident as the cashier scans the UPC code on top of the box,” countering Brown’s claim.

Whole Foods had filed a counter-suit for $100,000 against Brown, claiming fraud. In a statement released Monday, the company announced it sees “no reason to move forward” with the counter suit.

The full statement from Whole Foods is below:

We’re very pleased that the truth has come to light. Given Mr. Brown’s apology and public admission that his story was a complete fabrication, we see no reason to move forward with our counter suit to defend the integrity of our brand and team members.”




The Wall Street Journal reports…

“Philip Mills grimaced as he tensed his arms to pull down a rope and ring a bell at St. Vedast Foster Lane, a 12th-century church reconstructed by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666.

He puffed out his cheeks and his brow glistened with sweat. “Now I am warming up,” said Mr. Mills, 52 years old, who has rung at 280 church bell towers in Britain.

Fellow ringer Kristen Frederickson, 51, also caught her breath during the church’s two-hour bell-ringing practice session. “It’s very athletic,” she said.

The church’s ringing master, Thomas Lawrance, 64, kept a watchful eye. “Whip it through, keep that rope moving,” he told his team.

At St. Vedast, Robert Lewis, editor of the Ringing World journal, fondly recalls his first ringing group. “There were two Royal Navy officers, a rear admiral, a crane driver and a very left-wing teacher—the whole gamut of society,” he says.

That isn’t so much the case anymore, and amid a decades-long slump in church attendance, England’s tradition of church bell-ringing thrums with discord over its modernization.

Mr. Lewis, 53, spearheads a ringing faction that says the ancient practice urgently needs to rope in enthusiasts from outside its traditional circles. Their solution, as the sweating and the heavy breathing suggests, is to promote ringing as an athletic pursuit.

Church bells, after all, weigh hundreds or even thousands of pounds and take effort to move. Elva Ainsworth, 53, says she fainted while ringing peals at London’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields for the 1981 engagement of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles.

Ringing at London’s celebrated St. Paul’s Cathedral is similarly demanding. A peal, or series of bell strikes, involves 5,000 ringing combinations lasting 4½ hours. Since 1878, St. Paul’s has only witnessed around 100 full peals, one being Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

“Those bells are so enormous,” says Ms. Ainsworth, who began ringing at age 12 and whose father was chief ringer at St. Paul’s. “If I ring for 20 minutes, I am sweating.”

The Churches Conservation Trust, a U.K. charity, is promoting the fitness benefits of ringing. The trust commissioned research by fitness and training provider YMCAfit that found bell-ringing offers “improved agility, coordination, reaction time and balance, plus improved muscle endurance and cardiovascular fitness,” according to the website

But the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers—which represents “all who ring bells in the English tradition with rope and wheel,” including in the U.S.—wants to muffle the move to athletic status.

Chris Mew, the council’s president, says calling ringing a sport is “hot air.”

“Nobody has given evidence that it would have the effect of attracting hordes of new recruits or very big amounts of money,” says Mr. Mew, 74.

The council also fears that marketing bell-ringing—or campanology—as exercise would sever ringing’s link with Christian worship and jeopardize its relationship with church bodies.

“There is a majority view that it is primarily a church activity,” says Mr. Mew, and the belfry shouldn’t be “treated as a sports hall or swimming pool.”

Adds the council’s secretary, 40-year ringing veteran Mary Bone: “There have been some members of the clergy who have insisted that all their ringers go to services every week.”

Mr. Lewis’s response: The Council of Church Bell Ringers, of which he is a member, hasn’t done “due diligence.”

“I know a lot of atheists who ring,” he says. “They tend to be fairly quiet about it.”

For centuries, ringing devotees have rung bells at the British Isles’ roughly 7,000 church towers. Ringing spread to Britain from Europe in medieval times as friars and monks created religious orders.

Using multiple bells to create harmonies started in the 16th century. Nearly all of the world’s so-called change ringing towers are in the British Isles.

Dwindling churchgoing, as well as the older makeup of congregations, is putting the practice’s future in danger.

Over the past 25 years, regular attendance for Church of England churches has dropped 45%, to around three million, according to the CCCBR’s Ringing Trends Committee. Today’s roughly 30,000 ringers in the U.K. are down by 10,000 in the same period, says the Association of Ringing Teachers. Two-thirds of remaining ringers are over 50, the CCCBR committee notes.

Some bells have fallen silent as churches have been deconsecrated.

The Church of England, which declined to comment for this article, said in a recent paper that diminished participation in church activities “will not come as a surprise.”

Ringers campaigning for an athletic emphasis point to history. In 1829, the Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle called bell-ringing one of the “old English sports and pastimes.”

Bells rang out to herald London’s Olympic Games in 2012. At the London Marathon, ringers have enticed enthusiasts by bringing portable bells to the race for spectators to try out.

The National 12-Bell Striking Contest, the U.K.’s premier ringing contest, draws ringers from Birmingham, Cambridge and Exeter, among others. Later stages involve the “strikeometer”—a strike-recording tool using microphones in towers.

At the Ringing World National Youth Contest in Oxford last summer, 19 teams vied for “top ringers” status. Twenty-four teams are expected this year.

Competition encourages standards, says Mr. Lewis. “There is a lot of indifferent or bad bell-ringing going on out there,” he says.

Those opposed to the fitness push raise objections that range beyond the ecclesiastical to the financial.

Nearly all bells are church property. While ringers raise funds for local repairs, more people using the bells means higher maintenance costs.

“To maintain a simple tower with a set of bells, you could be talking about several hundred thousand pounds a year,” says the CCCBR’s Mr. Mew.

This means the church has “absolute sovereignty” over the use of bells and can shut the bell towers, he adds.

Ms. Ainsworth, who has resigned from the CCCBR partly because of its resistance to popularizing bell-ringing as an athletic pursuit, says disputes between ringers and clergy lead to some bells not being rung at all.

“We don’t pay that much attention to the vicar anyway,” she says. “We are very independent beings.”


Dog day afternoon


Opposing Views reports…

“A pastor reportedly starved his dog for two days in order to teach a Biblical lesson.

A video, posted to Facebook by TJ Davis on April 17, shows Pastor David Perry, who heads the New Selmont Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama, explaining how humans have dominion over animals the same way God has dominion over humans, notes the Friendly Atheist.

Using his hungry dog “Cowboy” as an example, Perry says: “I believe that after you spend some time walking in dominion, everything around you should obey you. Now, I know, Cowboy, I ain’t fed him in about two days just for this video. And I know that Cowboy, you’re hungry ain’t you boy?”

Perry then pours some dog food into a bowl but only allows the dog to eat one bite at a time.

“I know he’s gonna obey what I say and not eat this food until I tell him,” Perry says. “Now, God said we had dominion. So Cowboy, take a bite, go ahead, take one. That’s enough. Just one bite. Take another bite. That’s enough.”

Perry continues to order the dog to eat and not eat and then praises him:

Thank you boy. You’re a good boy. You know the Word of God, it’s in your heart. Now, I’ve got some folks in the world, and they can’t do this with God. God tells them to go, they don’t.

He tells them to move, they won’t. He tells them to praise, they won’t. He tells them to pray, they won’t.

Now if a dog can obey a man, surely, if we’re made in the image of God, created in an image like Him, when the Spirit of God speaks we should obey because the Bible says obedience is better than sacrifice. And there is reward for obedience.

David tells the panting dog to eat all that he wants as a reward.

The video has since gone viral on Facebook, garnering over 1.8 million views and 9,000 shares as of May 12.

Commenters on Facebook were very supportive of the video:

“Love this!!!!”

“Love the analogy. Amen.”

“Mr.Davis my daughter actually shared this video We actually live in a small town near Birmingham Alabama when I saw the Video it also touched My Heart dearly Not only did you explain how to plant seeds you actually Planted a Few. Just know you didn’t only touch My Heart but the heart of an 18 year old girl that LOVED your message !! Keep planting seeds Mr. Davis.”

“I’ve raised working dogs my whole life. It’s healthy to fast a dog a couple days. People are too worried about the dog that is obviously well taken care of to get the point of this .”