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Every denomination needs one of these...

Toro to face 6 felony charges

Thursday, March 29, 2007

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
A former Methodist pastor who joined the United Church of Christ and rose to national leadership positions after leaving Wisconsin has been charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy in 1987 while pastor of a church in Rice Lake.

Angel R. Toro, 56, is scheduled to appear April 25 in Barron County Circuit Court in northwestern Wisconsin on four felony counts of third-degree sexual assault and two felony counts of child enticement.

Toro, who apparently left Wisconsin in 1989, was pastor of the First United Methodist Church from about 1987 until his departure, said Rice Lake police Detective Chris Fitzgerald.

The incidents are alleged to have occurred on two days in a church washroom and church office after Toro picked the boy up to do work at the church and bought beer for them to drink, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.

Toro was granted ministerial standing in the United Church of Christ in October 1997 and became pastor of Chapel on the Hill in Seminole, near St. Petersburg, Fla., said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a national church spokesman.

Acclaimed for increasing attendance there from about 30 people to 500 people, Toro has served on the denomination's 90-member executive council, was on the team that implemented the "God is still speaking" national identity campaign and is a past president of the Local Church Ministries Board, one of the denomination's four national ministry boards.

Toro, who says he is innocent of the charges, had been on a leave of absence as pastor since late January. On March 19 he resigned his ministerial standing with the United Church of Christ and his position as pastor out of concern for the church, the Rev. Jean Simpson, regional conference minister for the Gulf Coast of Florida, said Wednesday. To be reinstated, he would need to undergo a fitness review.

Time limits extended

Toro was able to be charged because he left Wisconsin to live in another state, which stops the clock on the time limits within which a person can be charged.

Peter Isely, Midwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a release praising prosecutors and saying that Toro will be the 15th clergyman brought back to Wisconsin to face child molestation charges since 2002.

If Toro fails to appear in court in April, an arrest warrant will be issued, Fitzgerald said.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, March 29, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

More to do about Wahoo

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's the beginning of spring which means that it's time for the UCC's annual dig at the Cleveland Indians and it's mascot, Chief Wahoo. From the UC News:
The scheduled participation of the Cleveland Indians baseball team in Memphis’ annual Civil Rights Game on March 31 is drawing criticism from the UCC’s General Minister and President John H. Thomas.

Thomas is speaking out against a decision by Major League Baseball to pit the Cleveland’s baseball franchise – with its racially-charged “Indians” nickname and “Chief Wahoo” logo – against the St. Louis Cardinals in the annual exhibition game that honors the nation’s Civil Rights Movement.

“America’s pastime ought to reflect America’s noblest values,” Thomas told United Church News. “Logos and mascots that demean anyone fall far short of that vision.”
As usual, Thomas can't get past his own narrow thinking to recognize why the Cleveland Indians are playing in this game in the first place. The Indians were chosen to play in this, the first Civil Rights Game, because the Indians were the first AL team to have a black player (Larry Doby) and first in the majors to hire a black manager (Frank Robinson).

More from UC News:
The use of the “Indians” name in sports is widely offensive to American Indians and the team’s “Chief Wahoo” is regarded by many to be a racist caricature of Native Americans. Its use is often spoken in parallel to the “Little Black Sambo” caricature of African Americans, which dates to the early 1900s.
UC News doesn't cite a source to support the claim, but a Peter Harris Research Group poll, published in the March 4, 2002 issue of Sports Illustrated, showed that 81% of Native Americans support the use of Indian nicknames in high school and college sports, and 83% of Native Americans support the use of Indian mascots and symbols in professional sports. Sports Illustrated concluded that the "poll suggests that although Native American activists are virtually united in opposition to the use of Indian nicknames and mascots, the Native American population sees the issue far differently." In a similar poll in 2004, ninety percent of American Indians say the name Washington Redskins does not offend them, according to the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, March 28, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

A lesson about labels

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

From Linda (Sunshynrae) Thompson's blog, "Live for the Possibilities":
Labels are for jars, not people.

Labels are intended to describe who we are, what we have done, or some other characteristic. However, labels never tell the whole story. At best, they only speak of a small part of who we are. They can be based on fact or perception. I am white. Madison is African American. Those are facts. You can tell that from a distance without ever meeting us. Some people refer to me as "disabled." Am I disabled? Well those who are visiting today would no doubt say, "Yes, of course you are!" But those who have known me for years would probably argue with you by stating all my life accomplishments. Am I disabled? It is a matter of perception. I have a disability, but does that make me disabled? Some will think it does, but others won't.
Read the whole post here.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Prominent UCC pastor resigns after sexual assault charges filed

Monday, March 26, 2007

From the Tampa Tribune:
SEMINOLE - The pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation has resigned, within a week before he was charged in Wisconsin with sodomizing a teenage boy while a pastor there in the late 1980s.

Angel R. Toro, 56, was in charge of the Chapel on the Hill at 12601 Park Blvd. His attorney, Bruce Denson, said there was some turmoil in the congregation because of the allegations, so Toro decided to step down. He did not believe charges would be filed, Denson said.

On Monday, however, a detective with the Rice Lake Police Department in Wisconsin filed six counts against Toro. Toro is accused of befriending, sexually assaulting and sodomizing a 17-year-old boy while pastor of a church in Rice Lake in 1987, according to a copy of the criminal complaint.

Toro has not been arrested. Rather, he is required to show up in court in Wisconsin sometime in mid-April to answer to the charges, said Chris Fitzgerald, the detective in the case. The Pinellas Sheriff’s Office said there are no pending local charges.
Toro was Chairperson of the UCC Local Church Ministries’ Board of Directors and a member of the Stillspeaking Task Group. He has also been widely credited for reviving Chapel of the Hill UCC in Seminole, Florida, by increasing membership from 30 to 500 members in six years.
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, March 26, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Wright Comes Unhinged - UCC in damage control

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jeremiah Wright, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, has certainly enjoyed his recent notoriety as presidential candidate Barack Obama's pastor... but not all of the publicity is good. As a consequence, Wright imposed some highly restrictive rules on media access. According to Newsweek:
Wright's Chicago mega-church, Trinity United Church of Christ, imposes strict requirements on journalists who want to speak to the pastor. Reporters must sign two sets of legal papers on behalf of their news organizations before any interviews in order to be allowed inside the church.

The church has a list of what it calls "policies and procedures for use with outside media sources" or OMS for short. The paperwork states that the journalist will "fact-check the article" with the reverend's daughter, Jeri Wright, who is his media services director. The journalist also agrees to "give a full and fair idea of what to expect from the story." In addition, the journalist promises to give the church "any quotes derived from the interview process, prior to publication" and promises that all published quotes "are original quotes and will not be altered by the OMS in any way."

The second agreement, entitled "official waiver for use with outside media sources," states that "any infraction" of the church's OMS policies and procedures would lead to the reporter's "immediate removal" from the church and the confiscation of all interview notes and photos.

A church spokesperson told Newsweek the papers were designed to "protect our church and its pastoral staff and congregation."
According to Newsweek, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor "agreed to the restrictions and signed the papers" before her recent interview with Wright. Kantor's subsequent article revealed that Wright had been "disinvited" from speaking at Obama's presidential announcement last month. According to the article, Wright "expressed disappointment but no surprise that Mr. Obama might try to play down their connection."

That's not exactly the message Wright wanted to convey - but it's the same message he's repeated well before the New York Times interview.

During a worship service at Trinity after the article was published, a recorded message from Wright was played for the congregation in which he told the church, "the press is not to be trusted. ... Don't let somebody outside our camp divide us."

Wright then did what every subject of an unfavorable article does... he chastised the author for not spinning the article they way he expected. In a letter to Kantor printed in the church's bulletin, Wright ripped the author for "engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years". Although Wright never denies making the statements to the Times in his letter, he does offer this tidbit:
The president of our denomination, the Reverend John Thomas, has offered to try to help you clarify in your confused head what Trinity Church is even though you spent the entire weekend with us setting me up to interview me for what turned out to be a smear of the Senator; and yet The New York Times continues to roll on making the truth what it wants to be the truth.
It probably not coincidental that UC News published a story titled "Obama remains 'proud' of his pastor, Trinity UCC" based on part of the transcript from Lawton's PBS show. Although the PBS interview with Wright was taped a month before the New York Times article, Wright acknowledged essentially the same thing the New York Times reported:
In fact, I just shared with, I was trying to remember who it is, somebody in public life was asking me about Barack, and I said listen, Barack might be forced by the media and/or by supporters to be very absent from this church and to put distance between our church and himself.
The New York Times article was no more a smear than the PBS interview... but it was the attention that the Times article brought that's caused Wright to react so adversely. Instead of trying to restrict what the media reports, Wright might be better served to restrict what he tells the media in the first place.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, March 23, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Religion becoming an election issue

Friday, March 16, 2007

It's becoming apparent that religion is going to be an issue in the 2008 Presidential elections and UCC'er Barack Obama's religion is the center of it. Yesterday's Los Angeles Times ran an article that, again, tried to tie Obama to Islam and the Daily Herald wondered if religious background of the candidates is being blown out of proportion:
On the Democratic side of the ticket, Obama is catching fire from two sides.

First, he had to fend off rumors that he had been educated as a child in a Muslim religious school in Indonesia that has been used by radicals to indoctrinate fellow Muslims. Obama's father was a Muslim, but Obama himself has not been connected to the practice of Islam, let alone radical Islam.

Second, like Romney, Obama's Christian credentials have been called into question. He has been criticized for his membership in a Chicago church, the Trinity United Church of Christ, which has been described as having a black supremacist agenda and of worshipping things African to a greater degree than Christ.

The church's Web site lists 12 concepts that are central to its philosophy, including "Commitment to the Black Community," "Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting Black Institutions," "Pledge allegiance to all Black leadership who espouse and embrace the Black Value System," "Personal Commitment to embracement of the Black Value System," and "Disavowal of the Pursuit of 'Middleclassness.' "

The Black Value System was written by the Manford Byrd Recognition Committee chaired by Vallmer Jordan in 1981, according to the Web site.

Critics have seized upon the tenets of his church to cast Obama as a divisive candidate who would give preference to blacks over the nation as a whole. Obama has defended the church, arguing that its tenets need to be viewed in context. He said they promote family values, self-discipline and self-respect, virtues that mainstream Americans highly value. As for "disavowing the pursuit of middleclassness," he said that was meant as a reminder for more affluent parishioners not to neglect the poor in their midst.

"As I read it, at least, it was a very simple argument taken directly from scripture: 'To whom much is given, much is required,' " Obama said in an article published in the Chicago Tribune.

Under America's secular constitution, the government may not require a religious test for any public office. But that doesn't mean the people can't require one. Religion is very much in play in American politics. The question is whether it is being blown out of proportion.
The popular blog, Get Religion, sums it all up pretty well:
I know that much more reporting on Obama’s church is inevitable. As Wright said to Kim Lawton in what sounded like a tone of experienced resignation, “You think it’s ugly now. It’s going to get worse. It’s going to get much worse.”

Evaluation, or criticism, of Jeremiah Wright’s theology is not in itself ugliness. Wright is a gadfly, and that’s bound to attract journalistic and political curiosity. Still, the decision about where to attend church always depends on the pastoral realities of a city, a denomination and a congregation.

Barack Obama made a conscious decision to become a Christian while attending Trinity United Church of Christ. For Christians and others who are inclined to vote for him anyway, that probably will be enough reason to allow Jeremiah Wright his political, social and theological hobby horses and not to assume that Obama predictably rides alongside him.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, March 16, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Faith and REAL Action

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is your UCC church making a REAL difference? Let us know so we can share it with others.

Since I started the series, "Faith and REAL Action," a couple of weeks ago, I've received a number of emails about programs and activities from a number of UCC churches. One of the programs that was brought to my attention was The Lion of Judah Academy.

The Lion of Judah Academy in the Tanzania bush (Simba wa Yuda Academy in the native Swahili) likely never would have gotten started had it not been for UCC members and supporting churches, who saw a vision for a school to provide an outstanding Christian education to disadvantaged children, especially to the children of poor Tanzanian pastors and AIDS orphans.

The school was started as a small experiment in 2001, to help ministry students at a local theological college find a way to educate their children. It was founded by a Tanzanian educator and theology student, Josephales Mtebe, working together with two American missionaries, Hartford and Lynn Inlow.

Before going to Tanzania in 1999, Hart served UCC congregations in Connecticut and Illinois for 25 years. Since returning from Tanzania in 2004, he has been pastor at St. John – Hill UCC in Boyertown, PA. That church, as well as others, have become active supporters of the academy.

Since its opening in 2002, the school has received substantial support from UCC churches and individual UCC church members in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania , Illinois , Florida , North Carolina, Ohio, as well as several other states. The academy also receives support from churches and individuals representing a variety of other denominations and organizations.

One of the most common ways individuals and churches choose to support the children and the ministry of the school is by providing student scholarships, which range from $150 a year for students needing help only with tuition, to $600 a year for boarding students.

However, capital development and construction needs are going to be increasing in the near future since the secondary school has been opened, and the school now needs to build educational and dormitory facilities for an entire secondary school.

Started as an experiment in 2001, with 15 students, 1 grade, meeting in a borrowed classroom, today the Lion of Judah Academy student population is about 270 students in 9 grades. The school is receiving widespread attention from educators around the nation of Tanzania , due to the outstanding results its students are achieving. It receives hundreds and hundreds of new student applications every year.

The Inlow’s currently spend much of their time building bridges and partnerships between the school and U.S. Christians who may be interested in participating in the amazing things God is doing at The Lion of Judah Academy. They visit the school at least annually, and organize short-term mission teams to work at the school. In fact, there are currently two openings on a team which will be going out this coming June-July!
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, March 15, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

More Dorhauer Nonsense

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More from Dorhauer:
A lot of what I read on that site feels like posturing. James Hutchins knows the rules we live by here, and the reasons why it was set up that way. But he feels like he can get some mileage out of playing the persecuted victim or our conspiratorial attempts to silence him.
I hardly feel like a victim or think I'm being silenced - this site generates much more traffic and the UCCtruths message board has nearly 450 members.

And there's good reason for this success.

There is a world of difference in the integrity and honesty of this site compared to Dorhauer's web site. Unlike Dorhauer's site, I invite dissenting opinions by posting them on the site and through the message board. There's no litmus test to join the UCCtruths message board and there's no requirement for conformity. UCCtruths also provides documentation for the claims that are made and, if available, links to third-party sites.

As for Dorhauer's site... well, don't take my word for it, check for yourself how dissenting opinions are treated. Regardless of what Dorhauer and Clarkson think about how the "blogosphere" operates, the internet has thrived on open, social networks - not closed communities of like-minded individuals.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Media reacts to 'welcoming church'

From North County Times:
Roses & Raspberries
By: North County Times Opinion staff -

The 'Least of My People' award

A raspberry, albeit a conflicted one, to the folks gathering petitions outside of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad last week to pressure the church into not welcoming a convicted child molester into its congregation.

Mark Pliska's admitted crimes are terrible; there is no doubting that. But the fact that he volunteered the information to the congregation should stand for something. The church's pastor, the Rev. Madison Shockley, said they were already struggling with how to proceed. They didn't need the petition drive outside their doors, organized by Vista's Jessica Muehlhausen, to arouse their conscience.

Muehlhausen's concerns are certainly understandable. Two of her children attend Pilgrim Children's Center next door to the church. She told our Gary Warth: "I think he should attend a church that doesn't have a children's center. If Pilgrim Church wants to save this man, they can do some kind of outreach at his home or off campus." She said it didn't matter that the preschool would be closed Sundays, when Pliska was attending services.

As a society, we have not figured out how to deal with convicted sex offenders who have paid their debt to society. The November passage of Jessica's Law, which would track sex offenders for life via electronic bracelets, won't apply to the men and women whose crimes were committed before Nov. 7.

But look what happened in this case: TV coverage of Muehlhausen's petition drive prompted Pliska to be evicted from his Escondido home. On Friday, he was fired from his job. Do we really think that homeless, unemployed convicted sex offenders are better for our communities than those who have tried to find shelter in a supportive church?
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Welcoming to everyone

The San Diego Union-Tribune has more today about Pilgrim United Church of Christ's struggle on how to be welcoming to a pedophile. We referenced another story on it last week and it generated quite a bit of discussion on the message board. The church is still exploring it's options. From San Diego Union-Tribune:
Because the United Church of Christ is structured as a democracy, it will be up to the Pilgrim congregation to decide whether Pliska is allowed to worship there.

“I'm trusting this process,” Shockley said.

A church team continues to meet with Pliska. “He's accepted it with grace,” Shockley said. “He's missing coming to church.”

Shockley also is working with his congregation to develop a “safe-church” policy.

“The thing that really, really caught me off guard was the number of people in my congregation with a history of child abuse,” Shockley said. “I was stunned.”

Despite the pain, Shockley sees this as a teachable moment. “I hope everyone who reads this goes to their own church and says, 'Do we have a safe-church policy and if we don't, let's put one into place immediately.' ”

The sign outside Pilgrim, at Chestnut Avenue and Monroe Street, says that “All are welcome.”

Even convicted child molesters?

It's a question yet to be answered. “This is one of those learn-as-you-go situations,” said the pastor.
There's a lesson in this article as well: If you don't have a "safe-church" policy, create it now, before a crisis, not after.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

More Dorhauer Conspiracies

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

John Dorhauer, an Associate Conference Minister of the Missouri-Mid South Conference, is taking UCCtruths to task over my negative portrayal of him last week. Specifically, he didn't care for this:
Dorhauer doesn't like to be asked for facts or questioned at all about his conspiracy. His web site limits comments to only those that are supportive while people who ask questions are called "trolls" and asked to leave or are kicked off. For his upcoming seminar, he has limited those who can attend because it "is purposely designed for pastors and these authorized ministers only".
Dorhauer's response can be best summarized this way:
  • He allows open question at his seminars
  • He's not responsible for the rules of the web site where he posts his articles
  • He's not responsible for the conference limiting attendees to his seminar
His response in disingenuous. He has been asked publicly on his web site and privately by email to provide evidence (documentation, links, etc.) of a broad conspiracy by outside groups to steal churches from the UCC and he has not. We even offered him a challenge here and offered to publicize his evidence on this site since he won't offer it on his own site... but he doesn't want to.

The bottom line: Dorhauer doesn't want his conspiracy questioned or challenged.

On criticism of his web site policies, he explains:
"First, tain't my website. I don't make the rules, but I damn sure follow them. The website was intentionally not designed to be a no hold's barred interactive forum, but simply a place where those who were doing research could share the information."
He's right, Frederick Clarkson runs the site... and the rules he enforces don't allow for dissenting opinion or questions that hint at dissent. From Frederick Clarkson on one of Dorhauer's articles:
another troll deleted and banned

Every once in awhile, someone joins this site under false pretenses in order to respond to a post or a comment.

In order to join and participate in this site, you have to check off a box indicating that you agree with the purposes of the site. If you do not share our purposes and join the site anyway, you are a liar and a fraud. Here in the blogosphere, we call such people trolls. Most trolls are cowards who hide behind pseudonyms to get away with saying what they would not otherwise dare to say to someone to thier face. Other trolls use their own names, but somehow think that the rules apply to everyone but them.
As the site co-owner, I just deleted the comment of a cowardly troll and banned the person from posting on the site.

People who do not agree with the purposes of this site are free to post elsewhere. It's a big blogosphere.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Dec 05, 2006 at 07:13:30 PM EST
So Dorhauer is just some hapless idiot following the rules? Give me a break. Dorhauer chose to follow those rules or he would have posted his articles elsewhere. By consciously posting his articles in a place where they cannot be scrutinized, Dorhauer shares in the responsibility for the enforcement of the rules.

He claims "Even James Hutchins, who authors ucctruths.com is welcome and can ask questions and challenge statements made - as long as he abides by the rules."

I'd love to go on his web site and raise the same questions there that I have here. The problem is that to join his web site, you have to check off a box that acknowledges that you "share our general concern about the religous right". If that means sharing Dorhauer's concern that there is a conspiracy to steal UCC churches, I'm not signing on because he hasn't proven it. For what it's worth, UCCtruths.com doesn't hold a litmus test like this on our message board. (ed. note: Will someone please tell Dorhauer and Clarkson how to spell RELIGIOUS?)

Update: Freddy just uninvited me from responding on his site. I'm crushed.

The bottom line: Dorhauer doesn't want his conspiracy questioned or challenged.

Dorhauer also distanced himself from the limitation that only clergy could attend his seminar by claiming that it was the conference's decision on who could attend the seminar. Again, Dorhauer chose to give the presentation with those restrictions and he shares responsibility for it.

The bottom line: Dorhauer doesn't want his conspiracy questioned or challenged.

Let's also be clear on one thing: I do not doubt that it is possible that there are ministers out there with an agenda to lead a church out of the UCC. Clergy in the UCC are as diverse as our membership. I have stated repeatedly that I think church stealing is abhorrent, the perpetrators should be called out and it should be stopped at all costs. My difference with Dorhauer is that I don't see a broad conspiracy and he hasn't provided any evidence that there is a broad conspiracy. He has dropped a couple of names and shared anecdotal stories of a few churches that have left... but that doesn't make a conspiracy by any stretch of the imagination. As I reported last week, the UCC had the biggest percentage drop of members of any denomination in the United States. If there is a conspiracy, Dorhauer should be able to come up with better information.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, March 13, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Barney Frank to deliver lecture at General Synod

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Congressman Barney Frank is coming to the UCC's General Synod. From UC News:
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) will deliver the fifth Valerie E. Russell Lecture on June 25 at General Synod. The lecture, presented by the UCC-related Christians for Justice Action, is part of CJA's biennial luncheon, where the "Burning Bush Awards" will be presented to largely unsung UCC justice advocates.

Frank, who has served Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District since 1981, is chair of the House Financial Services Committee. Before coming to Congress, he was a Massachusetts State Representative and an assistant to then-Mayor Kevin White of Boston. He has also taught at several Boston area universities.
While Congressman Frank is popularly known as a gay rights advocate, he is also a strong advocate against divestment campaigns targeted at Israel like the one approved by the UCC General Synod last year.
posted by UCCtruths, Saturday, March 10, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

The Dorhauer Seminar

Friday, March 09, 2007

By Rev. Dr. Bryan Moore

I have been asked to write a review of John Dorhauer’s presentation for UCCtruths and for BWF. What follows is more of a report than a review. I will save my comments (the few that I will make), for the end.

At the beginning of the meeting, I approached John and let him know that I had been asked by UCCtruths and BWF to write a review. He appreciated the upfront approach. (ed. note: I was unaware Rev. Dr. Moore was also writing this review for BWF. There was no coordination between BWF and UCCtruths on this review.)

John is a 1988 graduate of Eden Seminary and is presently an Associate conference Minister for the Missouri Mid South Conference. He is also the author of the book Steeple Jacking, which is an examination of how in his opinion outside entities and influences are hijacking mainline churches. He was asked by the Penn SE Conference staff to come and address the ministers of the Penn SE on this very topic.

John began his presentation with some personal reflections on his experiences with dealing with churches that were in turmoil over Synod resolutions. He shared how the turmoil saddens and tears him apart. He explained that initially he went into these situations assuming the main problem was disagreement with the synod’s resolution but that this was a wrong assumption that lead to unfruitful tactics. He went on to say that they began to notice things that indicated more than just some internal conflicts within a given church. They found things that indicated intentional outside interference which I will share in the following.

John’s main thesis is that the IRD (Institute for Religion and Democracy), is a strong conservative political organization with substantial financial backing. The IRD works primarily through renewal groups in mainline denominations (Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and even the UCC), to disrupt the local church and cause it to be preoccupied with wedges issues. They do this, not to get churches to leave the denomination or to benefit financially but to preoccupy their time and energy so that they are not speaking prophetically and tending to justice issues in society which might upset the plans of certain political interests.

There's more... read the whole article here.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, March 09, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Pedophile might be ejected

This wasn't part of the script for the UCC television ad. From the North County Times:
CARLSBAD ---- Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad has long been known for being open and accepting, but that philosophy has been put to the test recently as members struggle to decide whether a convicted child molester should be allowed to attend services.

"One of our parents said, 'As hard a conversation it will be to tell my child that there's someone in my church who can harm him, it'll be equally hard to tell him why the church is sending that person away,'" said the Rev. Madison Shockley, the church pastor. "This is a highly charged, emotional and psychological issue."

Mark Pliska, a registered sex offender from Escondido, told the congregation about his two convictions on Jan. 28, his fourth visit to the church.

Shockley said he asked Pliska not to return until the congregation could consider what, if any, actions it should take. The church has run its preschool next door, Pilgrim Children's Center, for 30 years.

About 150 adults and 30 to 40 children attend services at Pilgrim Church each Sunday, Shockley said
It wouldn't be an understatement to say that this is probably the biggest theological test for any church in our denomination.
Shockley said it is important to note that Pliska never tried to hide his 1983 and 1998 convictions, but revealed them to the congregation because he wanted to be accepted for who he is and to put his past behind him.

"He's been a person who, in my conversations with him, is determined to make a better life for himself," he said. "We have to consider not only what it means to receive him, but what it means to send him away."

Barring him from services would send a message to other registered offenders that it is better to stay underground, which Shockley said would create a greater threat than having them come forward.

"My point is, it's not a simple thing to just say, 'Go away,'" he said. "This is a very challenging struggle ---- the most challenging of my ministry."

Shockley said the petition will not be a factor in the church's decision on how to handle the situation, which he sees as a theological struggle for a church that believes in "the extravagant welcome of Jesus."

"Jesus welcomes everybody, so the reason we have a struggle is that we're trying to honor that principle," he said.
This is significant on so many levels. What would you do?

Share your views on the UCCtruths Message board.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, March 09, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Dorhauer conspiracy turns into paranoia

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The John Dorhauer conspiracy just keeps getting weirder and it's bordering on creepy.

As we mentioned last month, Associate Conference Minister of the Missouri-Mid South Conference, John Dorhauer, will be visiting the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference tomorrow to give a seminar about his belief of a church stealing conspiracy and how clergy can prevent it from happening to them.

Dorhauer writes for a political web site called talk2action.org where he recycles anecdotes of disgruntled churches leaving the UCC that he believes is part of a broader conspiracy to steal churches. For some time now, myself and many, many others have asked Dorhauer to present some credible evidence of a conspiracy and he simply refuses to do so. He has his theory and he's going to run with it even though he has few facts to support his claims.

Dorhauer doesn't like to be asked for facts or questioned at all about his conspiracy. His web site limits comments to only those that are supportive while people who ask questions are called "trolls" and asked to leave or are kicked off. For his upcoming seminar, he has limited those who can attend because it "is purposely designed for pastors and these authorized ministers only".

Now it's getting creepy.

In his latest post on his web site, he accuses those who want to attend the seminar to raise the questions he won't answer anywhere else as "running scared". Apparently the folks at BWF (targets of Dorhauer's claims of church stealing) want to attend and have alerted others in the conference about the seminar. Dorhauer thinks it's underhanded:
This is a tactic we have encountered many times from those active in the BWF. Letters are written to churches without the Conference knowing about it; and to church members without the pastor being aware of it. It is a serious breech of what most would recognize as covenantal, ethical, and professional boundaries - and bespeaks a level of underhandedness for which we have come to know the BWF.

All of this suggests that we are being watched and monitored very closely. It also suggests that we are hitting pretty close to the mark, and have become a serious threat to a couple of organizations that have been functioning under the radar for far too long.
Shame on BWF for wanting to be preset at a seminar where they are being accused of stealing churches. Dorhauer doesn't have the courage to answer questions about his claims yet he criticizes other groups that do want to address the accusations directed at them.

In Dorhauer's mind, BWF alerting others in the conference about the seminar behind the backs of conference leaders "is a serious breech of what most would recognize as covenantal, ethical, and professional boundaries" It's an interesting comment when you consider that neither Dorhauer nor the conference publicized the event and restricted invitations to "authorized ministers only". Apparently holding a secret seminar to make accusations of other church members is what Dorhauer considers covenantal, ethical, and professional.

When you take a step back from it, you can see just how absurd this whole thing really is. Dorhauer is an Associate Conference Minister who is accusing groups within the denomination of church stealing. When those groups want to be present to face the accusations, Dorhauer accuses them of "functioning under the radar". As an Associate Conference Minister, Dorhauer carries the burden of transparency and honesty if he is going to make accusations about others within the church. So far, he has not satisfied that burden.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, March 07, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

SNUBBED! New York Times: Obama distances himself from UCC pastor

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Presidential candidate Barack Obama appears to be distancing himself from spiritual advisor and UCC pastor Jeremiah Wright. From the New York Times:
In Monday’s interview, Mr. Wright expressed disappointment but no surprise that Mr. Obama might try to play down their connection.

“When his enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli” to visit Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Mr. Wright recalled, “with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell.” Mr. Wright added that his trip implied no endorsement of either Louis Farrakhan’s views or Qaddafi’s.

Mr. Wright said that in the phone conversation in which Mr. Obama disinvited him from the announcement, Mr. Obama cited an article in Rolling Stone, “The Radical Roots of Barack Obama.”

According to the pastor, Mr. Obama then told him, “You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public.”
Wright blew this one by trying to grab his 15 minutes of fame at Obama's expense. The issue was never really about Wright himself. Before Obama, most people didn't know who Jeremiah Wright was. The issue was about Obama and whether or not he subscribes to the "Liberation Theology" Wright pushes in the pulpit.

Obama's people did the best they could to mop up after the snub:
“Senator Obama is proud of his pastor and his church, but because of the type of attention it was receiving on blogs and conservative talk shows, he decided to avoid having statements and beliefs being used out of context and forcing the entire church to defend itself,” Mr. Burton said.

Instead, Mr. Obama asked Mr. Wright’s successor as pastor at Trinity, the Rev. Otis Moss III, to speak. Mr. Moss declined.
Wright should have taken the hint. His insistence on doing national television shows and the New York Times interview after he was politely being asked to back off says a great deal about Wright's ego and priorities.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, March 06, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

United Church of Christ has biggest drop of members among U.S. churches last year

Monday, March 05, 2007

According to the National Council of Churches' 2007 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, the United Church of Christ had the largest decline of members in the U.S. with a loss of 3.28 percent. From The National Council of Churches:
The 2007 Yearbook reports the largest 25 denominations/communions in the U.S. (noting an increase or decrease in membership since the 2006 Yearbook reports).

1. The Catholic Church, 69,135,254 members, reporting an increase of 1.94 percent.

2. The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,270,315 members, reporting a increase of .02 percent.

3. The United Methodist Church, 8,075,010 members, reporting a decrease of 1.36 percent.

4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,690,672 members, reporting an increase of 1.63 percent.

5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no increase or decrease reported.

6. National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., 5,000,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.

7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,850,776, reporting a decrease of 1.62 percent.

8. National Baptist Convention of America, 3,500,000, no increase or decrease reported.

9. Presbyterian Church (USA), 3,098,842 members, reporting a decrease of 2.84 percent.

10. Assemblies of God, 2,830,861 members, reporting an increase of 1.86 percent.

11. African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.

12. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.

13. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.

14. The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), 2,440,864, reporting a decrease or .93 percent.

15. Episcopal Church, 2,247,819, reporting a decrease of 1.59 percent.

16. Churches of Christ, 1,639,495 members, reporting an increase of 9.30 percent (This increase reports the church's growth since its last reported figures in 1999.)

17. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 1,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.

18. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., 1,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.

19. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,440,405 members, reporting an increase of .53 percent.

20. American Baptist Churches in the USA, 1,396,700, reporting a decrease of 1.97 percent.

21. United Church of Christ, 1,224,297, reporting a decrease of 3.28 percent.

22. Baptist Bible Fellowship International, 1,200,000, no increase or decrease reported.

23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, 1,071,615 members, no increase or decrease reported.

24. The Orthodox Church in America, 1,064,000 members, reporting no change.

25. Jehovah's Witnesses, 1,046,006 members, reporting a decrease of 1.56 percent.

The total members reported in the largest 25 communions is 149,222,807, an overall increase of .82 percent.

The 2007 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches costs $50 and may be ordered at www.electronicchurch.org
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, March 05, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Faith and REAL Action

Is your UCC church making a REAL difference? Let us know so we can share it with others.

We need to see more of this - a great deal more of this. From the Frederick News-Post:
The Evangelical Reform United Church of Christ pastor is on her way, one of 26 people on this trip, to assist the Back Bay Mission, a UCC ministry to the poor in Biloxi. The group will rebuild homes, paint, do plumbing and maybe some electrical work.

The local church sent Back Bay a list of people, and their skills, and the organization determined where and on what projects those people would work, Kershner Daniel said.

The pastor held an orientation meeting to discuss Back Bay, the impact of Katrina, and what the church could do to help. Not everyone has a skill, but those without will be put to good use.

"You always need people to drive to the hardware store and stuff, those kinds of things" she said. "We can use everybody for anything."
More "Faith and REAL Action" from stories submitted by UCCtruths readers:

Another from the Frederick News-Post:
MIDDLETOWN -- When Merle Guyton's electrician's license was up for renewal in 2005 he almost let it expire.

Guyton, 70, retired from Allegheny Power in 1996 but to avoid the hassle of reapplying for a new license, just in case he needed it someday, he decided to renew.

At the time he had no idea that his skills would be key in helping transform an outdated former rental property at 10 East Main St. into a home for a homeless family.

The house, owned by Christ Reformed United Church of Christ, will be leased free to Advocates for Homeless Families Inc., for the next six years. During that time it will provide transitional housing for at least three families.

On Sunday, Guyton was one of dozens of church and community members who meandered through the clean, furnished rooms of the renovated three-bedroom home during an open house and ribbon cutting.

The church, which has owned the house since 2001, decided in January 2006 to partner with Advocates and rehabilitate the structure.

Beth Scott, a Christ Reformed member, led the task force of volunteers that did the renovations. Advocate's mission appealed to the church, she said.

Advocates, which started in 1988, helps families overcome homelessness through a two-year structured program that provides housing assistance, education and other support services.
Is your UCC church making a REAL difference? Let us know so we can share it with others.
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, March 05, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

No love for "The Lost Tomb"

It's tough to find any Christian leader or clergy to validate James Cameron's faith-busting documentary, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus". From Newsday:
"The Lost Tomb of Jesus," produced by "Titanic" director James Cameron and directed by Toronto filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, claims that 10 2,000-year-old caskets found in a Jerusalem suburb in 1980 may have held the remains of Jesus and his family. Two caskets bear the names "Mariamene" and "Judah, son of Jesus," suggesting, the filmmakers say, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her.

The film is scheduled to air Sunday at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.

If the movie's hypothesis is true, the evidence would challenge a central tenet of Christianity: that Jesus defied death and rose to heaven three days after he was crucified.

The Rev. Ann Van Cleef, pastor of Orient Congregational United Church of Christ, said she would "absolutely not" preach about the movie. "I preach out of the Bible, which has truth in it," she said. "I might save this one for a sermon on sin."
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, March 05, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Jeremiah Wright defends himself on Fox

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Jeremiah Wright probably didn't do himself any favors by dodging some of the questions and then rationalizing his views by referencing "Liberation Theology". Within the UCC, "Liberation Theology" has been used to rationalize the anti-Semitism of the Sabeel Center and the violent terrorism of the FALN in the name of Puerto Rican independence.
posted by UCCtruths, Sunday, March 04, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

No love for "The Lost Tomb"

It's tough to find any Christian leader or clergy to validate James Cameron's faith-busting documentary, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus". From Newsday:
"The Lost Tomb of Jesus," produced by "Titanic" director James Cameron and directed by Toronto filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, claims that 10 2,000-year-old caskets found in a Jerusalem suburb in 1980 may have held the remains of Jesus and his family. Two caskets bear the names "Mariamene" and "Judah, son of Jesus," suggesting, the filmmakers say, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her.

The film is scheduled to air Sunday at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.

If the movie's hypothesis is true, the evidence would challenge a central tenet of Christianity: that Jesus defied death and rose to heaven three days after he was crucified.

The Rev. Ann Van Cleef, pastor of Orient Congregational United Church of Christ, said she would "absolutely not" preach about the movie. "I preach out of the Bible, which has truth in it," she said. "I might save this one for a sermon on sin."
posted by UCCtruths, Sunday, March 04, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

T-Shirt Mania to hit General Synod

Friday, March 02, 2007

The summer fashions for the UCC's General Synod in June have been announced. From an email sent to Conference Ministers:
Stillspeaking has sent you two sample T-shirts commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Church of Christ: one all-purpose version and one of the nine faces chosen to lift up significant figures in our long history in this anniversary year. (The shirts are either coming home with the Conference Minister from the Consultation in Cleveland, or in the U.S. mail.)

We are pleased to offer conferences and associations special pricing on these collectibles. (Only 400 of each face will be made.) We hope that you'll enjoy using them for conference events as well as at the General Synod, and encourage the churches in your area to make them part of their 50th anniversary celebrations as well.
The shirts are available online at the Still Speaking store.

The shirts look nice, but I think they are missing someone important (no, not Obama).
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, March 02, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

UCC challenges licenses of two Hartford television stations

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Fresh off a victory by getting a record fine assessed against Univision for failing to provide adequate educational programming for children, the United Church of Christ is challenging the license renewals of two Hartford, Connecticut television stations. From Broadcasting & Cable:
The United Church of Christ has challenged the license renewals of two Tribune stations, WTIC-TV and WTXX, both Hartford, Conn.

Tribune, which has been shopping its stations, owns the Hartford Current newspaper and has been operating the stations for six and seven years, respectively, under waivers of the FCC's newspaper/broadcast crossownerhip rule, which bans common ownership of TV stations and newspapers (though a host of such combos were grandfathered when the ban was initially adopted).

A court tried to force Tribune to sell WTXX, but the FCC essentially said it wouldn't force the sale and a federal appeals court backed the commission up.
The string of license renewal challenges coincides with the UCC's increasing hostility towards media outlets that have refused to run UCC advertising, reported the UCC unfavorably or not covered the UCC at all.

Two years ago, the UCC challenged the license renewals of two southern Florida television stations owned by NBC and CBS after the networks rejected the UCC's television ad because of how the ad disparaged other churches. Although neither of the Miami stations ever rejected the ad, the UCC still pursued the unsuccessful challenge of their license renewals. The UCC also complained last year that NBC's "Meet the Press" didn't include a UCC leader on a four person panel during a discussion about Easter.

Univision (perhaps not-so-ironically) also rejected the UCC advertisement.

The Hartford Courant, which is owned by the same company (Tribune) that owns the television stations whose licenses are now being challenged, wrote unfavorably last July about the UCC's support of a union boycott of the Connecticut Convention Center. The boycott, as the article pointed out, embarrassingly didn't have the support of the workers at the convention center.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, March 01, 2007 | link | 0 comments |