When the church doors open, only white people will be allowed inside.
After permit approved for whites-only church, small Minnesota town insists it isn’t racist
City leaders said if they had turned down Asatru Folk Assembly, they would have faced an expensive legal battle.
When the church doors open, only white people will be allowed inside.
That’s the message the Asatru Folk Assembly in Murdock, Minnesota, is sending after being granted a conditional use permit to open a church there and practice its pre-Christian religion that originated in northern Europe.
Despite a council vote officially approving the permit this month, residents are pushing back against the decision.
Opponents have collected about 50,000 signatures on an online petition to stop the all-white church from making its home in the farming town of 280 people.
“I think they thought they could fly under the radar in a small town like this, but we’d like to keep the pressure on them,” said Peter Kennedy, a longtime Murdock resident. “Racism is not welcome here.”
Many locals said they support the growing population of Latinos, who have moved to the area in the past decade because of job opportunities, over the church.
“Just because the council gave them a conditional permit does not mean that the town and people in the area surrounding will not be vigilant in watching and protecting our area,” Jean Lesteberg, who lives in the neighboring town of De Graff, wrote on the city’s Facebook page.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Asatru Folk Assembly as a “neo-Volkisch hate group” that couches “their bigotry in baseless claims of bloodlines grounding the superiority of one’s white identity.”
Many residents call them a white supremacist or white separatist group, but church members deny it.
“We’re not. It’s just simply not true,” said Allen Turnage, a folk assembly board member. “Just because we respect our own culture, that doesn’t mean we are denigrating someone else’s.”
The group, based in Brownsville, California, says teachings and membership are for those of strictly European bloodlines.
The church was looking for a new church in the eastern North Dakota region when they came across Murdock. It’s unknown how many members they have worldwide or how many people will attend the new church.
“We do not need salvation. All we need is freedom to face our destiny with courage and honor,” the group wrote on its website about their beliefs. “We honor the Gods under the names given to them by our Germanic/Norse ancestors.”
Their forefathers, according to the website, were “Angels and Saxons, Lombards and Heruli, Goths and Vikings, and, as sons and daughters of these people, they are united by ties of blood and culture undimmed by centuries.”
“We respect the ways our ancestors viewed the world and approached the universe a thousand years ago,” Turnage said.
A small contingent of church supporters in Murdock said the community should be open-minded and respectful to all.
“I find it hypocritical, for lack of a better term, of my community to show much hate towards something they don’t understand. I for one don’t see a problem with it,” Jesse James, who said he has lived in Murdock for 26 years, wrote on Facebook.
“I do not wish to follow in this pagan religion, however, I feel it’s important to recognize and support each other’s beliefs,” he said.
Murdock council members said they do not support the church but were legally obligated to approve the permit, which they did in a 3-1 decision.
“We were highly advised by our attorney to pass this permit for legal reasons to protect the First Amendment rights,” Mayor Craig Kavanagh said. “We knew that if this was going to be denied, we were going to have a legal battle on our hands that could be pretty expensive.”
This pervert told his counselor in the US of his illicit sexual contact with a 5 year old son of a church pastor in Haiti.
A “Christian Missionary worker” from Virginia, who had done voluntary work in Haiti for almost 10 years, pleaded guilty to child sex abuse charges and admitted committing unlawful sexual conduct with at least 15 children.
The US District Court in Western Virginia sentenced James Arbaugh, a former Mennonite missionary, to 23 years in prison for child sex abuse, the Virginia-based WHSV TV station reports.
According to court documents, Arbaugh, who “evangelized and showed Christian-themed movies” in Haiti for nearly a decade since 2008, was caught “engaging in inappropriate sexual contact” with a child. After being confronted by a witness, he returned to the US in 2017.
Last September, he told his counselor in the US about his illicit sexual contact with a five-year-old son of a church pastor in Haiti. The next day, the counselor filed a report to local social services.
Arbaugh was arrested in November and later told police that he admitted to befriending, “grooming,” and then engaging in sexual abuse with at least 15 minors.
“James Arbaugh was a wolf in sheep’s clothing: he posed as a selfless missionary when in reality he was exploiting his position to prey on and sexually abuse vulnerable children in one of the most impoverished areas of the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski, as quoted by WHSV.
…priests forced a victim to pose naked on the cross while they photographed him using a Polaroid camera.
More than 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania had been sexually abusing little boys and girls for over 70 years.
A thousand children were identified as victims in the investigation, but there are possibly thousands more.
The Vatican refrained from making any comments about the situation.
More than 300 “predator priests” across Pennsylvania were reportedly sexually abusing children for over 70 years, according to a new grand jury, who got internal documents from the state’s six Catholic dioceses dating back to 1947: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
The grand jury states, “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.”
On Tuesday, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the cover-ups and abuse were reported by other state grand juries and they reviewed the information included in the “secret archives” — referring to the reports that hid the abuse that church leaders did for decades.
The jury report, consisting of 1,400 pages, described the gruesome details of some of the alleged abuse. A boy was raped repeatedly from age 13 to 15 and later suffered from severe spine injuries because of the priest who raped him. The boy later died of an overdose due to painkiller addiction.
In Pittsburgh, priests forced a victim to pose naked on the cross while they photographed him using a Polaroid camera. The report states that because of the cover-up, “almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted.”
In Pennsylvania, victims of child sex abuse have until they reach age 30 to file civil suits and until they are 50 to file criminal charges. The oldest victim who spoke to the grand jury was aged 83.
James VanSickle, 55, recounts the sexual abuse he suffered under the hands of a priest in Erie back in 1981, but because the statute of limitations had passed, the priest was not prosecuted for it.
As he testified before the grand jury, VanSickle said “This is the murder of a soul. We don’t have a statute of limitations on the crime of murder. We don’t go after victims . . . and question their ‘repressed memories’ or ‘recovered memories.”
Many questions now arise about whether high-level church officials could still be covering up their criminal actions.
The grand jury called for a law allowing older victims to file a case against the church for the abuse they’ve suffered as children, in addition to ending such limitations for criminal cases.
The Vatican press office refrained from making any comments to the situation, as the attention is now focused on Pope Francis, with many Catholics waiting on how he would handle this situation of abuse to restore the Catholic Church’s integrity.
Across the country, Pennsylvania is believed to have steered the most number of investigations on child sex abuse.
The recent grand jury report was described by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro as the “largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States.”
“There’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t drink alcohol in a responsible manner,” Pastor Chris VanHall told the station.
A building in Santa Cruz, Calif., is being converted into a worship space and public brewery by a pro-gay church that plans to donate some of its beer proceeds to Planned Parenthood, according to reports.
Members of the Greater Purpose Community Church now meet on Sundays at a food lounge to pray, listen and drink beer, KNTV reports.
“There’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t drink alcohol in a responsible manner,” Pastor Chris VanHall told the station.
Planned Parenthood has offices in the former bookstore VanHall plans to turn into a brewery by next summer, The Santa Cruz Good Times weekly newspaper reported.
“A church that serves beer and gives the profits away to places like Planned Parenthood is really exciting to me,” the pastor told the paper.
Santa Cruz’s recent Pride Parade included a contingent from Greater Purpose, the paper reported.
VanHall told KION-TV in a report Friday that on Sundays there will be church in the bar “but it’s going to be before we open to the public.”
The pastor told KNTV that holding services at the food lounge gave him the idea for the brewery.
“I thought to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be great if a church could figure out a way to make a product where they split the profits with local community service organizations?’ We were like ‘hey, we love beer, we love making beer, why not do a brewery?'” he said.
Anyway, he said, his sermons are always better after a couple of beers.
They were ages 15 and 17, they said, when the alleged abuse began at a Southern Baptist church in Fort Worth
On April 8, Pastor John Finley stood before his congregation in Tennessee with an announcement. After 31 years at the church, he resigned.
He held a microphone and read from a piece of paper.
“I made some poor choices and was involved with two females in inappropriate behavior,” Finley said. “There was no sex. Both ladies were over 18. In the best interest of our church, I choose to resign immediately.”
But the women who sent a letter that spurred Finley’s resignation from Bartlett Hills Baptist Church near Memphis have a different story to tell.
They were ages 15 and 17, they said, when the alleged abuse began at a Southern Baptist church in Fort Worth. It was true he hadn’t had sex with them, but he’d done more than kiss them, they said. He touched one’s breasts and put the other’s hand on his naked erection, they said.
The alleged abuse began 37 years ago at Travis Avenue Baptist Church, where Finley served as the youth minister for five years. Travis Avenue is well known in the Southern Baptist community, with strong ties to Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
One of the women said she never told anyone about the abuse until college. The other tried once, telling a youth worker at the church. A rumor even reached a deacon.Still, Finley stayed at the church.
The Travis Avenue of today is pastored by Mike Dean, who arrived in 1991, five years after Finley left. He has worked with both women to confront Finley’s church in Tennessee and now wants his own church to acknowledge what happened, while also trying to make Travis Avenue a place of healing.
“That angered me, that we missed that opportunity to set this straight 30 years ago,” Dean said. “I was just angry that it happened and we couldn’t stop it or didn’t stop it.”
The story of Travis Avenue unfolds against a backdrop of the Southern Baptist Convention’s own recent reckoning with how it deals with abuse. In May 2018, Paige Patterson, head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was fired over mishandling reported sexual abuse. At June’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which took place in Dallas, much of the conversation revolved around the treatment of women and how churches ought to deal with reports of abuse.
It took 15 years’ worth of attempts to reach out to Bartlett Hills to get Finley to resign, according to the women and their advocates. Bartlett Hills leaders maintain that the two women were adults when the incidents took place.
Finley’s wife, Donna, told the Star-Telegram there had been no more than kissing and that both women were adults. She said her husband would not comment and provided the name of his lawyer, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
“It’s been life-altering for me,” said Maria, one of the women who said she was molested by Finley. She’s 51 now and has asked to be identified by a pseudonym. “I believe that God has blessed me with a full life and a family and love and friends, but I don’t necessarily think this is the life, originally, that I was meant to have lived.”
The youth pastor
John Finley, now 62, became Travis Avenue’s youth minister in 1981, according to the church’s history book. In his mid-20s, he favored bright shirts with bright ties. The kids called him “John.” His favorites loved him and remembered him as quick with a joke and easygoing, just like a youth minister should be; the boys not in his inner circle bragged about dumping a toilet in his yard.
Sarah Beth — a pseudonym — said she was 15 when her abuse began in 1981. She’s 53 now and up to that point had attended Travis Avenue her whole life.
The first incident occurred on a youth trip bus, she said, when she thinks Finley thought she was asleep. She said he sat next to her and touched her breasts. She froze and waited for it to end.
The alleged abuse went on from when Sarah Beth was 15 until she was 18, from 1981 to 1983, she said. She remembers one time when Finley rubbed her leg on a youth group trip to a Fort Worth buffet and arcade while she played a video game. Another time, she said, he pinned her against his truck door, kissing and touching her. Still another time, she remembers him touching her breasts. Sarah Beth blocked out some of the alleged abuse.
“One time — and I’m not sure what age this is — I remember I was kind of watching it happen. It’s like I wasn’t even there. I was kind of ‘up here,’” she said, gesturing to the ceiling, “and I’m like, ‘Oh, is this happening?’”
As an adult, she said, having had normal relationships, she looked back and thought, “How was that enjoyable to him? I didn’t reciprocate.”
She went away to college in 1983. She’d never told anyone at the church what happened.
When Sarah Beth was at college, Maria, a girl two years her junior, came to Finley’s attention. Like Sarah Beth, Maria was a leader in her grade. She always wanted to do the right thing and considered herself a rule follower.
In August 1984, when Maria had just turned 17, the youth choir was on a bus trip to Colorado. Maria said the group was playing cards and trading seats, sitting on one another’s laps and lying down, and she wound up on Finley’s lap. She didn’t realize it was inappropriate — she had barely even kissed a boy then. So she didn’t think about it, she said, until Finley started touching her from behind.
“You know how when you’re nervous and you can feel your pulse just beating?” she said. “I remember that feeling, and I’m sure my face was red, my ears were red. I just couldn’t believe it was happening. Then he started just kinda raising his knee up underneath me, and I knew then that something was very weird and wrong.”
Little incidents happened throughout the trip, she said: pointed looks, Finley rubbing his arm or leg against hers. To this day, she remembers his blue eyes and the puffy bags under them, staring at her.
When the bus pulled up to drop the youth group back at church, Finley helped unload suitcases. Maria went to get hers when Finley, she said, grabbed her arm.
“He looked at me with his big blue eyes and he’s like, ‘Hey, hey, I love you. You know I love you, right?’” she said. She felt furious. She hadn’t processed what had happened and she felt sure Finley was trying to cover himself.
Mark Leitch was a member of the youth group at the same time as Maria, an active member but not a favorite of Finley’s. On the bus home from that Colorado choir trip, he said, he saw Finley touch Maria’s bottom with an erection.
Leitch told his parents, who didn’t believe him. His girlfriend, he said, told her parents — and her father believed her enough to speak to others. One of the others was a deacon and the father of another 17-year-old in the youth group, who was one of Maria’s best friends.
Amanda — who, on advice of her attorney, has asked to remain anonymous — remembers her parents called her into the kitchen and told her to ask Maria if Finley was doing anything inappropriate with her.
Amanda and Maria went toMcDonald’s. Over soda and fries, Amanda tried to get Maria to tell her if anything was happening.
By the time the church’s ice cream social rolled around a few weeks later, Maria felt like she had to tell somebody what was happening. She asked one of the youth volunteers — a younger adult — if they could talk.
They sat down on the steps on the side of the church, and Maria talked in circles, not making eye contact. She rocked back and forth. Finally she told the youth worker what happened on the choir trip.
Looking back, Maria thinks the youth volunteer didn’t know what to do. The woman’s first reaction, Maria said, was to ask if the man touching her was her husband. No, Maria said, and she told her who it was. The volunteer asked a few details, if it had happened since the trip.
“Thank you for telling me,” Maria remembers her saying. “I’ll check on this.”
The youth volunteer wrote a statement in January 2018 about what had happened. She said she had heard about rumors of Finley and Sarah Beth before Maria approached her. She said she approached Finley in his office in 1984 with the rumor about Sarah Beth and Maria’s accusation.
“He admitted to the relationship with [Sarah Beth] but that it was over,” she wrote. “As far as [Maria] was concerned, he told me it only involved a kiss, and that he would leave her alone.”
The statement was provided to the Star-Telegram on the condition that the woman who wrote it not be identified.
Finley, she wrote, said he would talk to the then-pastor of Travis Avenue, who is now dead. The youth volunteer didn’t know if he ever did. She declined to comment further.
The youth worker told Maria she’d spoken to Finley and that he promised the behavior would end. But the incidents, Maria said, continued, and by then, Finley had warned her not to tell or he’d get in trouble. At that point, she decided it was useless to press it further.
Maria said the abuse happened once or twice a week. Finley, Maria said, made a point of driving her home after youth events. He would grab her and kiss her and touch her in his car. With a few exceptions — once, putting her hand on his penis — she said, he usually touched her.
Sometimes, she said, he would express guilt. He’d kiss her and touch her in a parked car and then move back to the driver’s side, repeating, “I don’t know why I keep doing this. I’m a good person, I love God. I’m a good man. I just don’t do this.”
Maria said she thought, “How come people don’t see this? How come people don’t know this? Surely people see this.”
John Finley left Travis Avenue Baptist Church in 1986. When Maria found out, she was working in a Fort Worth department store with a couple of other friends from church. When a friend told her, she ran to the back room and sobbed.
A 1989 directory from the Tennessee church John Finley would resign from almost 30 years later shows him smiling from a page of staff members in a red tie and a gray suit. He has the same tight curly hair the Travis Avenue kids remember. He’s listed as the church’s minister of education and youth.
‘I knew this day would come’
Away at college, Sarah Beth began telling some friends — several of whom have spoken to the Star-Telegram and confirmed her accounts — what had happened. In the early 1990s, she told her parents. Watching the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings — and Anita Hill being questioned as she testified about being sexually harassed by the soon-to-be Supreme Court justice — rattled her enough that her mother knew something was wrong.
“It felt like, ‘This lady’s saying stuff, and people aren’t believing her,’” she said. “And that’s on the national stage. What’s going to happen to me if I tell anyone?”
In 1994, Maria and Amanda drove to visit a friend’s new house in Fort Worth. Brad Ward had been a member of the youth group and hadbeen told whathappened to Sarah Beth. Ward asked if Maria and Amanda had heard about Sarah Beth and told them that she had been abused by Finley.
Maria started crying when she and Amanda got back in the car. She told Amanda that Finley had molested her, too. Through some friends, she got Sarah Beth’s number, and the womentalked about their experiences.
After she heard about Maria, Sarah Beth called Finley. She confronted him about what had happened. She remembers him saying: “I wish you girls would leave me alone.”
Maria also called Finley. She asked, “Why did it happen?” She described his response as flippant. “It’s just one of those things, and I’m sorry,” he told her.
In the late 1990s, Sarah Beth wrote two letters to Finley’s church in Tennessee, one to the head of the deacon board and one to the personnel chairman. She can’t remember their names now, but she detailed the allegations against Finley and had a phone conversation with one of the men.
From Sarah Beth’s point of view, she’d done what she could. They’d been warned.
The church would be warned again. Scott Floyd is the minister of counseling for Travis Avenue and serves as the director of the master of arts in counseling program at B.H. Carroll Theological Institute in Irving, Texas. Sarah Beth went to him for counseling in 2003 about what had happened to her, and he learned there was another woman who had been abused as well. He heard Maria’s story separately and said he realized there were similarities between the two.
“It disturbed me a lot, and I struggled with it,” Floyd said. “I felt like I needed to do more than just try to help them individually.”
He got the women’s permission to do research. He spoke to Mike Dean, the Travis Avenue pastor, who agreed to let Floyd do anything the women were comfortable with. Floyd spoke to others who had been members of the youth group at the time. And then, with the women’s permission, he reached out to two officials at the church with a letter laying out his findings — and to Finley himself with a letter and phone call.
“The first thing he said to me is, ‘I knew this day would come,’” Floyd said. Floyd provided details about the allegations against Finley on the phone. Finley, he said, denied nothing.
Finley said there was no intercourse, there had been only two girls and that he was repentant. He also said he had not worked with children since being at Travis Avenue (according to the old church directory and Finley’s resignation statement, this is untrue: He worked as a youth minister at the Tennessee church before becoming the pastor).
At Floyd’s urging, Finley agreed to get counseling and allow Floyd to check in with the counselor, Floyd says. Floyd said Finley went to several sessions.
“What I was hoping to do is make other people aware of what he had done in the past,” Floyd said. “I was trying to contain the likelihood he could do anything else.”
Finley would stay at the church until 2018.
What more can our church do?’
On April 3, 2018, just after he resigned from his position as the student minister of Tennessee’s Bartlett Hills Baptist Church, Nick Daniel received a package that had been FedEx-ed overnight to his home address.
When he opened it, he found a letter detailing five years’ worth of alleged sexual abuse by John Finley at the Travis Avenue church in Fort Worth during the 1980s. Finley had hired Daniel at Bartlett Hills.
“This day will serve as a line of demarcation for those receiving this document,” read the letter, written by Amanda and Sarah Beth and approved by Maria, dated April 2, 2018. “It will mark the day each of you became aware that your Executive Pastor committed sexually criminal acts and now have a responsibility to act in order to protect your church and its congregants.”
Daniel was shocked. John Finley had been at Bartlett Hills for 30 years. But the accusations in the document were detailed — and there were enough to make him doubt Finley, Daniel said.
Five other Bartlett Hills officials received identical letters the same day.
The next Daniel heard, Finley had resigned — with a statement different from what the documents said had happened.
“For me personally, it becomes a struggle,” Daniel said. He is now working at another Tennessee church. “I worked with this man for eight years, I never knew any of this. It makes you question your own ability, your own discernment.”
Spurred by the #MeToo movement and its spillover into the church world, Sarah Beth and Maria had decided they were ready to try again. This time, Amanda — their old friend from youth group — took on a role as their advocate.
In January 2018, both women said, they filed reports with the Fort Worth Police Department.
The report filed by Sarah Beth alleges that Finley sexually assaulted her several times from the time she was about 15 to the time she was about 17 years old. The report says Sarah Beth told police Finley kissed her on multiple occasions. Once, while fully clothed, he lay on top of her on the floor, kissed her and became aroused, the report said. On another occasion, Finley put his hand under her shirt and rubbed her breast, Sarah Beth told police.
Maria provided the Star-Telegram with a portion of the report she said she filed with police. It does not identify Finley but says Maria reported that she was assaulted by her youth minister on and off for two years, beginning around 1984. The report alleges the youth minister touched her buttocks, then pushed his knee into her groin. It also alleges the youth minister kissed her, fondled her breasts and asked her to kiss and touch him.
In the letter to Bartlett Hills, Amanda put herself forward as the advocate who would be the point of contact with the church. Ted Rasbach, chairman of the personnel committee at Bartlett Hills, responded to Amanda and declared himself the spokesman for the church.
In an interview, he said he and the other recipients immediately took the letter to Finley. Finley, he said, “acknowledged he had committed inappropriate behaviors but that they were not with minors.” Rasbach, who has been at Bartlett Hills since the early 1960s, thought Finley had been a wonderful pastor. He’d never heard any allegations against him of inappropriate behavior until the letter arrived.
“The communications in the letters had no basis in facts,” Rasbach said.
On April 8, Finley read his resignation speech to the church, saying as much. Backlit by the chancel’s purple lighting, he told the church that he had been involved in “inappropriate behavior” with two women, both over 18, over 30 years ago in another church. “Nothing like this has happened in our church,” he said.
As he walked off the chancel, a congregant called out, “John, John, please don’t do this. We’ve all made mistakes.”
Rasbach provided a transcript of Finley’s remarks.
“I was angry when I saw that,” Maria said. “I was like, ‘How can you sit here and lie? You have the opportunity to come clean.’ ”
Amanda sent an email the day after Finley resigned, demanding that the church correct his resignation speech. Rasbach asked for police reports. Amanda promised to travel to Tennessee with other documents and obtain the police reports. Maria would travel with her, ready to tell her story to the entire congregation. Ultimately, Rasbach replied that the committee decided a visit would be unnecessary.
“We’re not sure what the two ladies are wanting, at this point,” he said. “John Finley has resigned. What more can our church do?”
Donna Finley, John’s wife, picked up the phone at the couple’s Tennessee home on July 3. More than anything, she wished this whole thing would go away.
“I can tell you for certain it was no more than kissing,” she said. Referencing Sarah Beth, who signed her real name to the letter to Bartlett Hills, Donna Finley added, “She should be over this. She cannot live her life trying to destroy my husband.”
Donna Finley said her husband would not comment and deferred comment to his lawyer, Jeffrey Jones, an attorney based in Bartlett, Tennessee.
Jones did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls over the course of the last week. The Star-Telegram sent Jones a list of 34 questions regarding each accusation Maria and Sarah Beth made against Finley, as well as recollections others had of interactions with Finley over the nearly four decades of his time at the Travis Avenue and Bartlett Hills churches.On Sunday, July 8, Pastor Mike Dean informed his congregation at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth of what had happened. He put out a statement from the church, outlining that the church had learned about the allegations in 2003 and had worked since to help Sarah Beth and Maria warn the Tennessee church.
“Our first instinct is self-defense, and yet I knew we needed to resist that,” he said in an interview. “This is something that happened. It happened here at our place.”
The church has more safeguards in place than it did in the 1980s: background checks, windows between rooms, a two-adult policy for staff workingwith children. And the youth minister copies his wife or another worker when texting a student.
He hopes that Travis Avenue can help other churches deal with such circumstances in the future and use the situation to minister to abuse victims in its own congregation.
In December 2017, before confronting Bartlett Hills, Amanda had sent an email through the Southern Baptist Convention’s website asking how to turn in a pedophile. She never got a response. She wrote an email to the Ethics &Religious Liberty Commission — the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention — and presented the situation. She asked for guidance.
“Specifically engaging in this matter is not in the scope of our role, authority or ability,” Lauren Konkol, the commission’s team coordinator, wrote in an email back to Amanda on Feb. 3. “Within Southern Baptist churches, the local church is the highest authority, and we as a denominational organization have no authority to remove or rebuke any local pastor.”
Konkol deferred response to the commission’s vice president for public policy and general counsel, Travis Wussow.
“We’ve been grappling with what is our responsibility, what is our mandate,” he said. “But what autonomous doesn’t mean is we are autonomous from every authority.” Criminal justice, he said, belongs to the state to execute.
The autonomy of the local church — a backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is technically a voluntary association of local churches — can be a sticking point in rooting out abuse. The SBC itself is hesitant to publicly rebuke pastors and churches.
A proposed database of offenders, which has been talked about since 2007, has been repeatedly defeated. In 2008, the SBC executive committee announced it would not support it, citing the “belief in the autonomy of each local church.”
After this year’s convention and its focus on abuse, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has been tasked with studying the viability of creating one. No church has yet been kicked out of the SBC for mishandling abuse, but Roger Oldham, spokesman for the SBC’s executive committee, said it could be done.
“Who has the authority to go to a church and say: ‘Your pastor has a problem?’ There isn’t an authority within our convention with the legitimacy to do this,” said a lawyer familiar with the SBC, who required anonymity to speak freely. “Southern Baptists as a whole have to look at each other and say: ‘Let’s do something about this.’”
After Finley’s resignation, Amanda sent an email to Mitch Martin, executive director of missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association, a Tennessee-based network of Southern Baptist churches, outlining what Finley had allegedly done and the discrepancies in his resignation speech. In an email to Amanda, Martin promised to “discourage John from pursuing vocational ministry” and, if a church came asking about him, he would “tell them that I cannot in good conscience recommend him.”
Martin told Randy Davis, president of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, that Finley had resigned and that there had been accusations made against him. Davis said he didn’t know the specifics. He hasn’t informed other churches about Finley, he said, because he doesn’t have enough firsthand information. He said he wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to alerting the churches in the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s network to an abuser, though.
“It is pressing the envelope of church autonomy, but I believe we need to become more involved in informing our network of churches how they can understand their responsibilities in vetting someone,” he said. “We’re desiring to be very proactive in helping churches to deal with these things openly.”
Maria never dealt with her emotions until she wrote her impact statement to send to Bartlett Hills. For a while, she felt like nobody cared. For years, she carried blame and self-loathing for what happened.
Mark Leitch, the boy on the bus who tried to alert his parents to what he saw happening with Maria, is 51 now and still living in Fort Worth. He’s carried the incident with him ever since, as well.
“As a young man, I felt like I should have done something to protect my friends,” he said. “I just hurt so bad that I didn’t do anything.”
Sarah Beth feels like the alleged abuse — though it was physical — affected her more psychologically and emotionally than physically. As an adult, she asked herself how the abuse kept happening. She was disappointed when she found out recently that a youth worker had been told what happened to Maria and that there had been rumors about her, yet Finley remained at the church.
“Why didn’t anyone check into that?” she asked. “I feel like the opportunity has come up to help other people — to either prevent something or help people who have been hurt. I’m trying to do what I wish someone would have done for me.”
When will “the church” realize that these church scams benefit only ONE PERSON, THE PASTOR!
Jesse Duplantis, 68, a Christian minister based in Destrehan, about 25 miles east of New Orleans, says his “ministry” [aka his blind followers] has paid cash for three private jets.
“You know I’ve owned three different jets in my life and used them and used them and just burning them up for the Lord,” Duplantis says in a video posted to his ministries’ website. Duplantis is now reportedly asking his followers to give him the funds for a Dassault Falcon 7X, worth $54 million.
The problem with the previous jets, he says, is that they require multiple stops to refuel. But flying the Falcon 7X, Duplantis says, will allow him to save money and not pay “those exorbitant prices with jet fuel all over the world.” When will “the church” realize that these church scams benefit only ONE PERSON, THE PASTOR! I hope that his supporters don’t expect him to give them a ride in his new jet because that’s not going to happen! When he rents out his jets for other preachers to use, where do you think that rental income is going- it’s goes in Duplantis’ pocket!
“I really believe that if Jesus was physically on the earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey,” Duplantis says in the video, “He’d be in an airplane preaching the gospel all over the world.”
Both televangelists defended their use of private jets during a joint appearance on Copeland’s program, saying that commercial airlines are filled with “a bunch of demons” that get in the way of their busy schedules. Why is it that these religious scammers always blame “Jesus” for their shameful behavior?
“The script for Living Biblically reads like it has been written by your typical, cynical, atheistic, internet trolls, as the story lines feed into almost every stereotypical caricature of Christianity that we find on the World Wide Web,”
Originally written by Heather Clark-
Despite its producers stated intentions not to be offensive, but to bring religion into primetime television, a blasphemous new sitcom on CBS called “Living Biblically” is being decried as a “Hollywood mockery of Christians” and in need of prayer itself.
The show is based on the book “The Year of Living Biblically,” written by A.J. Jacobs, an agnostic Jew who makes fun of certain parts of the Torah that he finds odd and concludes that “fundamentalists may claim to take the Bible literally, but they actually just pick and choose certain rules to follow.”
Producer Patrick Walsh told Fox News earlier this month that he met with Jacobs, who advised that he wanted to create a comedy show about religion. He expressed enthusiasm about the result: a story about a man who loses his best friend and learns his wife is having a baby, sparking the desire to try to be a “better man” and live by what he reads in the Bible. He regularly meets with a Roman Catholic priest and a Rabbi, referred to as the “God squad,” in a local bar to receive direction.
“That was the intent, to do a show that was not preachy and off-putting to people who do not practice religion, but also very respectful and welcoming to those that do,” Walsh explained. “A big part of my pitch was that 84 percent of the world aligns itself with religion, and yet there’s nothing on television for people of faith.”
“The only times you hear it mentioned is things like Bill Maher, which is extremely critical, and the other end of the spectrum are movies like ‘God’s Not Dead’ and ‘Left Behind,’ which are successful, but I think they’re so pious and solemn that they’re off-putting to a general audience,” he opined. “They’re usually just successful amongst religious people.”
However, in the broadcast, after the main character, Chip Curry, advises his wife that he wants to do a “soul cleanse” until their baby arrives, she exclaims, “I’m not throwing out my rap albums. You know how much I love my filthy, filthy sex rap.”
When he tells his wife, an atheist, that it’s important to have faith, she asks why God made super gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease. Moments later, Curry tells his wife that if his quest goes beyond the nine months, according to the Bible, he cannot touch her while she is menstruating and that if she gets “crabby,” he has to go live in the desert.
“You know, it’s just Bible stuff,” Curry says.
A laugh track follows.
The show also proceeds to make a mockery of Curry’s knowledge that an acquaintance is committing adultery, as he proceeds to throw a rock at the man’s head and runs away to avoid being arrested. Curry also believes that the Bible says not to wear mixed fabrics of any kind.
Visiting the confessional, he tells the priest about his accomplishments, and receives the admonition, “Go to church and be good. It’s enough.” When asked if he has anything to confess, Curry states that he swears a lot. The priest then provides several substitute curse words that Curry can use, but notes that it is “incredibly unsatisfying” to say them instead.
“If CBS were honest, the series would more accurately be titled ‘Living Blasphemously,’ as it is simply more Hollywood mockery of Christians, God’s word and the Lord Jesus Christ,” writes Joe Schimmel, pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel in Simi Valley, California and host of the documentary “Hollywood’s War on God.”
“The script for Living Biblically reads like it has been written by your typical, cynical, atheistic, internet trolls, as the story lines feed into almost every stereotypical caricature of Christianity that we find on the World Wide Web,” he said.
Schimmel said that the heart of the sitcom is contrary to the message of the gospel and does not point men to Christ. The Bible says that all men are utterly incapable on their own of walking in righteousness as their nature is inherently bent toward sin (Rom. 3:9-19; Rom. 5:12; Rom. 6:6; Eph. 2:3), and therefore, they must be born again—regenerated from death to life—through the work of the Holy Spirit, putting their trust in Christ alone for salvation (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:13; Titus 3:5).
“The show’s premise could not be more antithetical to the heart of the biblical message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ,” Schimmel lamented. “Chip’s conversion is not based on a confession before God that he is a sinner and embracing Jesus as Lord and Savior, but rather on a vain confession before the Catholic priest that he is actually ‘a good man’ and wants to live by the Bible.”
He said that the show reminds him of when he, too, once mocked the Scriptures.
“Prior to coming to Christ, I too mocked the Christian faith, until the Lord graciously unmasked the powers of darkness that were blinding me to Jesus,” Schimmel outlined. “We are called to remember that we, too, were once blind and lost before coming to Jesus, before experiencing His amazing grace.”
“Sadly, the wicked spend an awful lot of time undermining the gospel, perverting His word, and blaspheming His holy name! May the Lord Jesus give us grace to spend even more time sharing His great love and glorious gospel with a lost and dying world,” he declared.
Schimmel pointed to Titus 3, which reads, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Leaked text messages between “prophet” Uebert Angel and his “spiritual granddaughter” reveal sexual exploitation of unsuspecting girls/women church attendants.
According to now deleted social media posts- a filthy sex scandal involving false prophets “Shepherd Bushiri”(real name Chipiliro Gama aka major1), and Uebert Angel of ECG church, in Pretoria South Africa and with a branch in Washington DC has been exposed via a cellphone that was not password protected of a woman mentored by “Shepherd Bushiri” named Melody Dzingaiwho is allegedly having a sexual affair with Shepherd Bushiri (Uebert Angels “spiritual granddaughter”), to arrange sex dates for him and source pretty girls for him from the church congregation. The post stated that Uebert Angels wife Beverly Angel is aware of his sexual escapades and uses hush money to pay off and silence would be troublemakers who would expose the secrets of Uebert Angel.
According to the now deleted post which was allegedly hacked and deleted by Bushiri’s “damage control team” created by LeroyElliot, Melody Dzingai’s personal driver; Melody Dzingai forgot one of her cellphones in a hired car, and Elliot received a phone call from the rental car office after returning the car that a cell phone had been left behind, LeroyElliot knew that the phone belonged to Melody Dzingai, Uebert Angels spiritual granddaughter so he went to retrieve it. LeroyElliot stated that He almost immediately received a phone call from false prophet Shepherd Bushiri’s “hit men” warning him to not open the phone followed by a number of warnings and death threats. Elliot stated that he had no intentions of looking in the phone but since his life had been threatened, he was adamant to learn the contents of the phone and made screenshots of the contents therein and created a Face Book account to reveal his findings to warn the public of Bushiri and Uebert Angels sexual activities which involved young girls and women in the church since his life had been threatened. Elliot stated that he couldn’t believe some of the despicable text messages that were being exchanged between UebertAngel and Melody Dzingai. He recorded Bushiri’s goons threatening him and the audio can be heard HERE
I was able to locate a few of the screenshots of the text messages exchanged between Uebert Angel and Melody Dzingai. Unfortunately, every internet source that published the information has been deleted- most likely paid off/bribed to delete the information. Here are a few of the text-messages exchanged between Uebert Angel and Melody Dzingai, his “spiritual granddaughter”
There has been an alarming number of incidences similar to this throughout the United States as well as in other parts of the world, tolerance for such behavior in South Africa is apparently more lax than in the United States. This is not the first allegation of sexual misconduct involving Bushiri and his “spiritual son” Uebert Angel. Since Bushiri and Uebert Angel came on the scene as “prophets” the allegations immediately irrupted. I won’t bother listing them, just google their names and read for yourself. I know without a doubt that these two use evil means to fool their followers to believe that they are performing “miracles”, when in reality they are being assisted by demons and most likely their participation in sexual morality is to appease the demon that is servicing them. My goal is to bring awareness to Americans who attend Bushiri’s church in the United States. Please, Please, Please don’t trust your children around this man or in his church– don’t take these allegations lightly, This man IS NOT a “man of God” he is an opportunist and a vulture who should have never been allowed to build his Satanic Temple in the United States.
CHRISTIANITY has failed yet again! This is Babylon indeed!
That’s right! Snoop got smart and launched his own gospel album and it’s at the top of the charts! It didn’t take much to persuade some of the elites in gospel music to endorse him such as Mary Mary, Fred Hammond, Tye Tribbett,The Clark Sisters, John P. Kee,Kim Burrell, Charlie Wilson, Patti LaBelle... because they know that when Snoop gets paid SO WILL THEY! I hope that you don’t think that these renowned artists contributed to Snoop’s gospel album for free- THEY DID IT TO GET PAID! I really don’t know what the big fuss is all about anyway; I mean, Snoop Dog didn’t lie! He NEVER SAID that he was born again, that he repented, that he’s not going to smoke weed again, that he’s no longer a womanizer, he never made a public announcement to denounce all of his filthy secular music and videos in circulation, warning the younger generation to not buy or listen to them- HE NEVER SAID THOSE THINGS. He said, “I’m coming out with a gospel album” and that’s exactly what he did and his supporters as well as the Christian community bought it and now he’s getting paid.
Calling oneself a Christian ISN’T ENOUGH, when there’s no clear distinction between clean and unclean- righteousness and unrighteousness, the standard is questionable and likely to compromise. Snoop said himself in an interview of how when he was younger and attending church and made it big with his first secular album (that was ridden with profanity) that the church didn’t care what he was saying in his music, they were just happy that “he made it”. WATCH IT This didn’t start with Snoop Dogg, as a matter of fact he most likely got his inspiration from the ever present money hungry filthy rich preachers such as TD Jakes, Joel Olsteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, KC Price, Rod Parsley, Mike Murdock just to name a few, as well as the other gospel artists that live double lives! Just show me ONE gospel artist that is an example of true holiness- obeying ALL of the commandments of God! Show me even one who isn’t in it for the money. King David didn’t sell his psalms, he sang them from his heart to God, but the greedy present day Christians use David’s songs in their music to get paid!
There is a priest who received a STANDING OVATION by the church for saying that he’s gay, EVERYDAY one can read of preachers who have sexually molested children or women, priests who are smoking crack, pastors who have divorced their spouse for someone new and even preachers who commit murder, Sexually perverted individuals and/or those with questionable lifestyles are always welcomed into the church and onto the pulpits if they are insanely talented. There are Christians who support abortion and an embarrassing number of Christians who are racially prejudiced and they are still welcomed in the churches and on the pulpits. CHRISTIANS- WHERE IS THE STANDARD?
Snoop Dogg didn’t fail you- CHRISTIANITY DID! Christians are making a mockery of THEIR OWN religion. Time to stop blaming the Muslims and the atheists AND TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT YOURSELVES! Below are JUST A FEW photos of how Christian gospel artists present themselves shamelessly in public.
It is written in 1 Timothy 2 for women to dress modestly… maybe this was omitted in some versions. Again- NO STANDARDS!
Not one Christian made a fuss when Cee Cee Winans, Marvin Slaughter and Vashawn Mitchell performed for TB Joshua a well known African occultist! I say LEAVE SNOOP DOG ALONE because he was welcomed, embraced and assisted by a kingdom that compromises the commandments of God for money and fame; a kingdom that has absolutely nothing to do with holiness or faithfulness to God. He’s not doing any thing more than what other gospel artists have been doing for decades- using God’s name for money.
According to the police report cited by ABC13, the pastor’s wife told the victim’s daughter, “You wanna know why this happened? It happened because your mom slept with my husband.”
An Ohio church pastor, his wife, and daughter are accused of robbing a Sunday school teacher in the church at gunpoint.
Anthony Morris, 49, his wife, Zelda Morris, 46, and their daughter, Kamali Morris, 19, have each been charged with the first-degree felony of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, the Toledo Blade reported.
Sunday school teacher Nickema Turner who had an affair with the pastor Morris claims she was at the St. Paul’s AME Zion Church in downtown Toledo, where Morris is a pastor, when she was violently assaulted and robbed. Turner alleges Kamali Morris grabbed her by the hair, and then both pastor Morris and his wife began to push and beat her, according to a police report.
Zelda Morris then allegedly emptied Turner’s purse and began taking some of the items.
Turner resisted and tried to recover some of her belongings, according to cleveland.com, and when it appeared she was getting the upper hand against her two female assailants, the pastor pulled out a gun and said “Bitch I’ll kill you”. It is alleged he pointed it at Turner’s face, according to the Toledo Blade, and made threats.
Two prescription bottles, a Taser, and an iPhone were allegedly taken from Turner’s purse. The iPhone was later recovered, with the screen broken.
The incident took place shortly before Sunday service was set to begin, it was reported, with witnesses on hand who later provided information to the police.
According to the police report cited by ABC13, the pastor’s wife told the victim’s daughter, “You wanna know why this happened? It happened because your mom slept with my husband.”
The three assailants then reportedly fled the church, while Turner was treated at the scene by Toledo Fire and Rescue crews.
The pastor and his wife have been arrested, police said, but at the time of reporting their daughter remained at large.
In a message on the church’s website, Morris describes St. Paul’s AME as “a family-focused, multi-generational ministry. We honor the traditions of the elders, but we are also intentionally contemporary in our Worship Experience.”