Porn again — Facing denial in conservative pews

The Rev. Heath Lambert usually hears one of two responses when he tries to get pastors to be candid about the impact of Internet pornography in their churches.Response No. 1 sounds like this: "Pornography isn't a problem in my church."That answer drew laughter at a recent conference on faith and sexuality, organized by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Lambert, a seminary professor who leads the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, … [Read more...]

Baptists rethinking the use of catechisms (plural)?

This joke may be the most famous in all of Baptist humor.While crossing a high bridge, a traveler encounters a distressed man who is poised to jump. The first man asks the second if he is religious and a Christian. The suicidal man answers, "yes," to both. Catholic or Protestant? The jumper says, "Protestant." And, as it turns out, both men are Baptists."Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?" The second man, in a classic version of this joke found at the "Ship of … [Read more...]

Lessons learned by professional church spies

The first thing Chuck Lawless noticed when he entered the church foyer was that the welcome center was empty, which made it pretty hard for a newcomer to feel welcomed on a routine Sunday morning.After several minutes of hanging around trying to look conspicuous, a staff member at this particular Pennsylvania congregation approached him and asked if he needed help. Lawless asked a perfectly normal newcomer question: Was there a small-group Bible study of some kind that he could … [Read more...]

Protecting church flocks from real killers

It was a Saturday morning and the Rev. Jaman Iseminger had just dropped by to help some volunteers as the cleaned up the cemetery next door to the Bethel Community Church in Southport, south of Indianapolis.Then a homeless woman entered the church and confronted him. She pulled a gun and killed the 29-year-old pastor, leaving behind a wife and a 2-year-old daughter."There are all kinds of tragic details ... but here's what's really haunting about that case," said Jimmy Meeks, a Hurst, … [Read more...]

Goodbye to a radical Baptist patriarch

The old Southern preacher had walked through many airport security gates using his cherry-wood cane and was surprised -- especially years before 9/11 -- when a guard ordered him to send it through the X-ray scanner.After that rite, the Rev. Will Campbell asked the guard to bring him the cane. The guard, somewhat miffed, asked if he could walk through the scanner without it. The preacher, somewhat vexed, said that was a question for his doctor.Facing a nervous crowd, the guard ordered … [Read more...]

Woodstock sinks into sexual ethics in America

Back in 1969, the same year as Woodstock, Gallup Poll researchers asked Americans this moral question: "Do you think it is wrong for a man and a woman to have sexual relations before marriage, or not?""Yes, wrong," responded 68 percent of those polled, while 21 percent said, "No, not wrong."By 1973, the traditionalist camp affirming that premarital sex was wrong was down to 47 percent and the minority of those disagreeing rose to 43 percent. In 1991, only 40 percent considered premarital … [Read more...]

What Baptists can learn from craft beers

It would be hard to imagine a vision of Baptist life edgier than the one served up by a recent Wake Forest School of Divinity graduate named Zachary Bailes.This parable starts something like this: Once upon a time, America was dominated by giant breweries that produced rivers of ordinary beers like Budweiser, Coors and Miller Lite. Some of their local outlets grew into mega-franchises that could seat thousands of people in shopping-mall-like facilities featuring giant video screens, pop-rock … [Read more...]

Thundering new voice for Southern Baptists

A New Orleans preacher, preaching to a New Orleans crowd, can expect a few "Amens!" if he quotes lyrics from Billie Holiday's bluesy "God Bless the Child" while talking about God's love for sinners who get saved.But what if he's preaching at the pastors' conference before the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention?All the people said, "Amen!"What really mattered was that the preacher was the Rev. Fred Luter and his turbo-charged call for salvation and social change was one of … [Read more...]


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