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would-jesus-wear-a-sidearm.html - Oct. 30, 2015
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32710444 - 12 May 2015
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22526252 - 17 May 2013
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20649525 - 12 December 2012
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6648265.stm - 15 May 2007
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5193092.stm - 19 July 2006
USA > Evangelical
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The 30 million-member National
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America's Evangelicals in 2004
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N.Y. / Region|Side Street
Accusations of Racism in a
Brooklyn Lutheran Community
By DAVID GONZALEZ
NYT MARCH 16, 2014
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The Political Pulpit
September 30, 2011
The New York Times
By STEPHANIE STROM
This weekend, hundreds of pastors, including some of the nation’s evangelical
leaders, will climb into their pulpits to preach about American politics,
flouting a decades-old law that prohibits tax-exempt churches and other
charities from campaigning on election issues.
The sermons, on what is called Pulpit Freedom Sunday, essentially represent a
form of biblical bait, an effort by some churches to goad the Internal Revenue
Service into court battles over the divide between religion and politics.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit legal defense group whose founders
include James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, sponsors the annual
event, which started with 33 pastors in 2008. This year, Glenn Beck has been
promoting it, calling for 1,000 religious leaders to sign on and generating
additional interest at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.
“There should be no government intrusion in the pulpit,” said the Rev. James
Garlow, senior pastor at Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif., who led preachers in
the battle to pass California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
“The freedom of speech and the freedom of religion promised under the First
Amendment means pastors have full authority to say what they want to say.”
Mr. Garlow said he planned to inveigh against same-sex marriage, abortion and
other touchstone issues that social conservatives oppose, and some ministers may
be ready to encourage parishioners to vote only for those candidates who adhere
to the same views or values.
“I tell them that as followers of Christ, you wouldn’t vote for someone who was
against what God said in his word,” Mr. Garlow said. “I will, in effect, oppose
several candidates and — de facto — endorse others.”
Two Republican candidates in particular, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and
Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, would presumably benefit from some
pulpit politics on Sunday, since they have been courting Christian conservatives
Participating ministers plan to send tapes of their sermons to the I.R.S.,
effectively providing the agency with evidence it could use to take them to
But if history is any indication, the I.R.S. may continue to steer clear of the
“It’s frustrating,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defense.
“The law is on the books but they don’t enforce it, leaving churches in limbo.”
Supporters of the law are equally vexed by the tax agency’s perceived inaction.
“We have grave concerns over the current inability of the I.R.S. to enforce the
federal tax laws applicable to churches,” a group of 13 ministers in Ohio wrote
in a letter to the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, in July.
Marcus Owens, the lawyer representing the Ohio ministers, warned that the
I.R.S.’s failure to pursue churches for politicking violations would encourage
more donations to support their efforts, taking further advantage of the new
leeway given to advocacy groups under the Supreme Court’s decision last year in
the Citizens United case.
Lois G. Lerner, director of the agency’s Exempt Organizations Division, said in
an e-mail that “education has been and remains the first goal of the I.R.S.’s
program on political activity by tax-exempt organizations.” The agency has
posted “guidance” on what churches can and cannot do on its Web site.
The agency says it has continued to do audits of some churches, but those are
not disclosed. Mr. Stanley, Mr. Owens and other lawyers say they are virtually
certain it has no continuing audits of church political activity, an issue that
has been a source of contention in recent elections.
The alliance and many other advocates regard a 1954 law prohibiting churches and
their leaders from engaging in political campaigning as a violation of the First
Amendment and wish to see the issue played out in court. The organization points
to the rich tradition of political activism by churches in some of the nation’s
most controversial battles, including the pre-Revolutionary war opposition to
taxation by the British, slavery and child labor.
The legislation, sponsored by Lyndon Baines Johnson, then a senator, muzzled all
charities in regards to partisan politics, and its impact on churches may have
been an unintended consequence. At the time, he was locked in a battle with two
nonprofit groups that were loudly calling him a closet communist.
Thirty years later, a group of senators led by Charles E. Grassley, Republican
of Iowa, passed legislation to try to rein in the agency a bit in doing some
audits. While audits of churches continued over the years, they appeared to have
slowed down considerably after a judge rebuffed the agency’s actions in a case
involving the Living Word Christian Center and a supposed endorsement of Ms.
Bachmann in 2007. The I.R.S. had eliminated positions through a reorganization,
and therefore, according to the judge, had not followed the law when determining
who could authorize such audits.
Sarah Hall Ingram, the I.R.S. commissioner responsible for the division that
oversees nonprofit groups, said the agency was still investigating such cases.
“We have churches under audit,” Ms. Hall Ingram said. “Maybe they just aren’t
the clients of the people you’re talking to.”
None of the churches involved in previous pulpit Sunday events have received
anything beyond a form letter from the I.R.S. thanking them for the tapes, Mr.
Stanley said. “They haven’t done anything to clarify what the law is and what
pastors can and can’t say,“ he said.
Mr. Owens, the lawyer representing the Ohio churches, said that Ms. Lerner had
told a meeting of state charity regulators in late 2009 that the agency was no
longer doing such audits. “I have not heard of a single church audit since
then,” Mr. Owens said.
He said the agency could have churches under audit for civil fraud or criminal
investigation. “I know of at least one of those,” he said.
Ms. Lerner said she could not recall what she had said at the meeting. Grant
Williams, an I.R.S. spokesman, declined to describe the type of church audits
the agency was doing or their number.
Last year, the I.R.S. also quietly ceased its Political Activities Compliance
Initiative, under which it issued reports in 2004 and 2006 detailing its
findings of illegal political campaigning by charities, including churches.
Paul Streckfus, a former I.R.S. official who publishes a newsletter about legal
and tax developments in the tax-exempt world, said the reports had served as an
alert. “They also gave us some idea of how big the problem of noncompliance
actually was, and that the I.R.S. was actually doing something about it,” Mr.
Mr. Garlow said he planned to outline where the candidates stood on various
issues and then discuss what the Bible said about those issues, calling on
church members to stand by their religious principles.
“The Bible says render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,”
he said. “But Caesar is demanding more and more of what was once considered
God’s matter, and pastors have been bullied and intimidated enough.”
The Political Pulpit,
Draw Bigger Crowds to Churches
December 14, 2008
The New York Times
By PAUL VITELLO
The sudden crush of worshipers packing the small evangelical Shelter Rock
Church in Manhasset, N.Y. — a Long Island hamlet of yacht clubs and hedge fund
managers — forced the pastor to set up an overflow room with closed-circuit TV
and 100 folding chairs, which have been filled for six Sundays straight.
In Seattle, the Mars Hill Church, one of the fastest-growing evangelical
churches in the country, grew to 7,000 members this fall, up 1,000 in a year. At
the Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J., prayer requests have doubled —
almost all of them aimed at getting or keeping jobs.
Like evangelical churches around the country, the three churches have enjoyed
steady growth over the last decade. But since September, pastors nationwide say
they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending
with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they
re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:
Bad times are good for evangelical churches.
“It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev.
A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in
Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are
arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open
Nationwide, congregations large and small are presenting programs of practical
advice for people in fiscal straits — from a homegrown series on “Financial
Peace” at a Midtown Manhattan church called the Journey, to the “Good Sense”
program developed at the 20,000-member Willow Creek Community Church in South
Barrington, Ill., and now offered at churches all over the country.
Many ministers have for the moment jettisoned standard sermons on marriage and
the Beatitudes to preach instead about the theological meaning of the downturn.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, who moved much of their door-to-door evangelizing to
the night shift 10 years ago because so few people were home during the day,
returned to daylight witnessing this year. “People are out of work, and they are
answering the door,” said a spokesman, J. R. Brown.
Mr. Bernard plans to start 100 prayer groups next year, using a model conceived
by the megachurch pastor Rick Warren, to “foster spiritual dialogue in these
times” in small gatherings around the city.
A recent spot check of some large Roman Catholic parishes and mainline
Protestant churches around the nation indicated attendance increases there, too.
But they were nowhere near as striking as those reported by congregations
describing themselves as evangelical, a term generally applied to churches that
stress the literal authority of Scripture and the importance of personal
conversion, or being “born again.”
Part of the evangelicals’ new excitement is rooted in a communal belief that the
big Christian revivals of the 19th century, known as the second and third Great
Awakenings, were touched off by economic panics. Historians of religion do not
buy it, but the notion “has always lived in the lore of evangelism,” said Tony
Carnes, a sociologist who studies religion.
A study last year may lend some credence to the legend. In “Praying for
Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States,”
David Beckworth, an assistant professor of economics at Texas State University,
looked at long-established trend lines showing the growth of evangelical
congregations and the decline of mainline churches and found a more telling
detail: During each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth in
evangelical churches jumped by 50 percent. By comparison, mainline Protestant
churches continued their decline during recessions, though a bit more slowly.
The little-noticed study began receiving attention from some preachers in
September, when the stock market began its free fall. With the swelling
attendance they were seeing, and a sense that worldwide calamities come along
only once in an evangelist’s lifetime, the study has encouraged some to think
“I found it very exciting, and I called up that fellow to tell him so,” said the
Rev. Don MacKintosh, a Seventh Day Adventist televangelist in California who
contacted Dr. Beckworth a few weeks ago after hearing word of his paper from
another preacher. “We need to leverage this moment, because every Christian
revival in this country’s history has come off a period of rampant greed and
fear. That’s what we’re in today — the time of fear and greed.”
Frank O’Neill, 54, a manager who lost his job at Morgan Stanley this year, said
the “humbling experience” of unemployment made him cast about for a more
personal relationship with God than he was able to find in the Catholicism of
his youth. In joining the Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, he said, he found
a deeper sense of “God’s authority over everything — I feel him walking with
The sense of historic moment is underscored especially for evangelicals in New
York who celebrated the 150th anniversary last year of the Fulton Street Prayer
Revival, one of the major religious resurgences in America. Also known as the
Businessmen’s Revival, it started during the Panic of 1857 with a noon prayer
meeting among traders and financiers in Manhattan’s financial district.
Over the next few years, it led to tens of thousands of conversions in the
United States, and inspired the volunteerism movement behind the founding of the
Salvation Army, said the Rev. McKenzie Pier, president of the New York City
Leadership Center, an evangelical pastors’ group that marked the anniversary
with a three-day conference at the Hilton New York. “The conditions of the
Businessmen’s Revival bear great similarities to what’s going on today,” he
said. “People are losing a lot of money.”
But why the evangelical churches seem to thrive especially in hard times is a
Rorschach test of perspective.
For some evangelicals, the answer is obvious. ”We have the greatest product on
earth,” said the Rev. Steve Tomlinson, senior pastor of the Shelter Rock Church.
Dr. Beckworth, a macroeconomist, posited another theory: though expanding
demographically since becoming the nation’s largest religious group in the
1990s, evangelicals as a whole still tend to be less affluent than members of
mainline churches, and therefore depend on their church communities more during
tough times, for material as well as spiritual support. In good times, he said,
they are more likely to work on Sundays, which may explain a slower rate of
growth among evangelical churches in nonrecession years.
Msgr. Thomas McSweeney, who writes columns for Catholic publications and appears
on MSNBC as a religion consultant, said the growth is fed by evangelicals’
flexibility: “Their tradition allows them to do things from the pulpit we don’t
do — like ‘Hey! I need somebody to take Mrs. McSweeney to the doctor on
Tuesday,’ or ‘We need volunteers at the soup kitchen tomorrow.’ ”
In a cascading financial crisis, he said, a pastor can discard a sermon
prescribed by the liturgical calendar and directly address the anxiety in the
air. “I know a lot of you are feeling pain today,” he said, as if speaking from
the pulpit. “And we’re going to do something about that.”
But a recession also means fewer dollars in the collection basket.
Few evangelical churches have endowments to compare with the older mainline
“We are at the front end of a $10 million building program,” said the Rev. Terry
Smith, pastor of the Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J. “Am I worried
about that? Yes. But right now, I’m more worried about my congregation.” A
husband and wife, he said, were both fired the same day from Goldman Sachs;
another man inherited the workload of four co-workers who were let go, and
expects to be the next to leave. “Having the conversations I’m having,” Mr.
Smith said, “it’s hard to think about anything else.”
At the Shelter Rock Church, many newcomers have been invited by members who knew
they had recently lost jobs. On a recent Sunday, new faces included a hedge fund
manager and an investment banker, both laid off, who were friends of Steve
Leondis, a cheerful business executive who has been a church member for four
years. The two newcomers, both Catholics, declined to be interviewed, but Mr.
Leondis said they agreed to attend Shelter Rock to hear Mr. Tomlinson’s sermon
series, “Faith in Unstable Times.”
“They wanted something that pertained to them,” he said, “some comfort that
pertained to their situations.”
Mr. Tomlinson and his staff in Manhasset and at a satellite church in nearby
Syosset have recently discussed hiring an executive pastor to take over
administrative work, so they can spend more time pastoring.
“There are a lot of walking wounded in this town,” he said.
Bad Times Draw Bigger
Crowds to Churches,
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