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Start spreading the news May 29, 2024

• “California evangelical seminary ponders changes that would make it more welcoming to LGBTQ students.”

If Fuller changes its policies, does that mean they would rehire Ruth Schmidt, who was fired by the seminary back in January for objecting to the anti-gay language in its statement of faith? Or maybe they’d consider bringing back theologian J.R. Daniel Kirk who was forced out a few years back for “pondering changes” that were not yet permitted to be pondered?

It’s likely too soon to consider such questions, given that the pondering-pushback-penitence cycle of white evangelicalism suggests that the outrage industrial complex of white-/Christian-nationalism is about to go scorched earth on the school.

John Hawthorne makes this point in Deepa Bharath’s AP report:

Hawthorne, whose upcoming book argues that Christian colleges should put students front and center instead of worrying about critics, anticipates “significant blowback” from conservative Christians should Fuller move forward with the revisions.

“I hope they have a plan on how to manage the aftermath, the storm, when it comes,” he said.

For some dismal context presented here as prediction, see earlier:

• The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability is an accreditation agency for white evangelical ministries and nonprofits that reassures potential donors they’re not getting ripped off. Mostly, they’re accountants — an outside agency that comes in to look over the books and makes sure there’s no funny business and that the money raised is being spent on whatever the church or ministry or mission group says its spending it on.

But the ECFA also realizes that the financial health of such ministries depends on more than just responsible bookkeeping. So it’s adding a new standard to its certification process involving “leadership integrity.”

The accreditation agency for over 2,700 evangelical nonprofits wants to raise its standards to address “one of the greatest financial risks” posed to churches and ministries today: moral failures by leadership.

The general idea makes sense. Consider, for example, the case of Living Word International Church in Midland, Mich., led by televangelist Mark Barclay. As far as I know, the church is not mishandling donations or funneling money from the offering plate into a slush fund for its staff. An audit by a whole team of accountants might not find anything amiss in its bookkeeping. But donors might also want to consider this factor: “Third Leader Faces Sexual Assault Charges at Televangelist Mark Barclay’s Michigan Church.”

This certainly does, as ECFA says, present a financial risk to the work of Living Word International.

But dealing with such “moral failures by leadership” isn’t really something that CPAs are trained to do and I’m not confident that ECFA’s well-intentioned efforts will accomplish much. It’s new standard says, “Every organization shall proactively care for its leader and support the integrity of its leader in conformity with ECFA’s Policy for Excellence in Supporting Leadership Integrity.” Translated into human-speak, the idea is that the nonprofit’s board needs to keep an eye on the organization’s leaders to ensure that they’re not sneaking off to extort handjobs a la Ravi Zacharias.

Take that idea to Mark Barclay’s place and see how it might work in practice. There, the task of preventing “moral failures by leadership” would fall to its associate pastors and church elders. Two of those associate pastors and one of the church elders have been charged with sex crimes against children.

• So apparently perpetually tipsy former judge Jeanne Pirro said this yesterday on the cable channel Fox, “You know, my question for Robert De Niro is what have YOU done for New York City, Robert De Niro?”

There are a lot of answers to that question, but here is one example of what Robert De Niro has done for New York, New York: BOMP bomp badda domp BOMP bomp badda domp BOMP bomp badda domp BOMP ….

Here’s composer John Kander telling the story:

Fred (Ebb) and I were writing songs for a film called “New York, New York.” Martin Scorsese was directing it and starred Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro. We wrote five or six songs and went down to Marty’s office to play them. And Liza and Marty were there, and then in the background — I don’t know if we got introduced or not — was Robert De Niro sitting on a couch. I’m not sure I even knew that at the time. Anyway, we played the songs for them, and everything was all set, until suddenly, we saw this arm waving from the couch. And Marty went over and said, excuse me, De Niro wants to speak to me. And then we watched what was a very animated conversation. We couldn’t hear anything.

And Scorsese came back and, in a very embarrassed way, said that De Niro had felt that the title song, which was very much attached to him in the film, was just too lightweight compared to the song that was attached to Liza, which was “The World Goes Round.” And would we consider taking another crack at it? And of course, we left and thought, some actor is going to tell us how to write a song. And we could not have been more internally pompous, I think. Anyway, we went back to Fred’s apartment, and I think because the juices of rage were coursing through our bodies, we wrote another song very fast, probably 45 minutes, called “New York, New York,” and took it back, and that was the song that was used in the movie and became the song which is now pretty well known.

Kander says the now-iconic opening vamp in that song was his angry, sarcastic response to De Niro’s suggestion that it needed to be “bigger.” So.

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