IFAS | Freedom Writer | April 1996 | update.html

Religious Right update

Mentoring the president

Washington, DC Each month, Bill Hybels, senior pastor of suburban Chicago's 15,000-member Willow Creek Community Church, meets with President Bill Clinton for the purpose of "personal spiritual mentoring."

"It is a non-ideological, non-political series of conversations. It is about his own attempts to develop spiritually. It is to encourage his understanding of God's Word and how he needs to apply that to his life and to his being a father and a husband and a leader," explained Hybels.

Hybels said that, although he disagrees "quite dramatically" with some of Clinton's policies, he believes it is the responsibility of all Christians to "genuinely pray for Bill Clinton and his family" and to "discipline themselves to talk and act respectfully" about him, even if they disapprove of his policies.

"I think it is important to influence the political process, to call the government into account," said Hybels, "but also to never lose sight of the fact that, if you are going to change a culture, you will do it one life at a time." (Source: The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, February 23, 1996)

Church growth movement castigated

Windham, Maine With the abundance of "super churches" (5,000 or more members) in the United States, many evangelical and conservative church leaders are basking in the glory of new-found phenomenal growth. Religious political extremist groups are eyeing these churches as a rich source of voters and activists.

The church-growth movement, however, is not appreciated by every pastor. "The church growth movement is indeed the bitch goddess of the ecclesiastical machine," according to the Rev. J. Grant Swank, of Windham, Maine. Rev. Swank lists three reasons for his strong statement:

"The church growth movement relies too heavily on human analysis, human projections. The enemy of the mind of God is reliance on human thought.

"The church growth movement is enamored by human methodologies, human blueprints.

"The church growth movement is bloating human egos. Prancing statistical gains and brag charts is actually baptized by religious leaders who claim to be spiritual models."

"What do we do," Swank wrote in the March 1996 Chalcedon Report, "with the bitch goddess' glitzy garb name-dropping, grabbing apparel, mammoth structures, millions in impressive revenue, knock-out p.r.? The answer: 'This too shall pass.'"

Pastor opposes women candidates

Birdsboro, Pennsylvania Last year, many Christian conservatives in Pennsylvania supported Peg Luksik's bid for governor. Although Luksik is ultra-conservative and anti-abortion, not every conservative clergyman supported her. Why? Because she is a woman.

In response to Luksik's candidacy, the Rev. William O. Einwechter, of Covenant Christian Church, expressed his opposition to women candidates in an article in the March 1996 Chalcedon Report.

"I believe the Bible," Rev. Einwechter wrote, "gives a clear and definite answer to this question: women are not permitted by God to hold political office and rule over men in the political sphere. There are four well-marked lines of evidence in the Bible that establish that women are not to hold political office." His four reasons are:

"The Biblical doctrine of the headship of man disqualifies a woman for civil office.

"The Biblical qualifications for civil office require civil leaders to be men.

"The Biblical picture of a virtuous woman is against a woman holding civil office. (The center of her interest and the place of her ministry is her home.)

"The Biblical lament that 'women rule over them' confirms the error of a woman holding civil office. The fact that [in the Bible] Israel has women reigning over them is seen to be the result of sin and a part of God's retributive justice; it is certainly not considered a blessing in the text!"

Einwechter believes that the presence of women in politics is a sign that men "have utterly failed to exercise the leadership required of them." In conclusion he wrote, "Therefore, Christians must not support a woman for the office of civil magistrate. It is imperative that Christians labor to restore God's order for the family, the church, and the state [his emphasis]."

Coming to a city near you

Arvada, Colorado The much-touted Promise Keepers conservative Christian men's movement announced its upcoming 1996 conferences. They are: Los Angeles, April 19-20; Seattle, May 10-11; Kansas City, MO, April 26-27; Detroit, May 10-11; Minneapolis, May 10-11; Washington, DC, May 24-25; Boise, ID, June 7-8; Syracuse, NY, June 7-8; Charlotte, NC, June 21-22; Chicago, June 28- 29; San Diego, July 12-13; Pittsburgh, July 12-13; New Orleans, July 26-27; Indianapolis, July 26-27; Eugene, OR, Aug. 2-3; Memphis, Oct. 11-12; and Jacksonville, FL, Oct. 18-19. The Minneapolis and Detroit events are sold out.

This year, the group expects attendance to surpass one million. Promise Keepers employs 300, and operates on a budget of $64 million. On February 13, 1996, Promise Keepers held its first Clergy Conference for Men at Atlanta's Georgia Dome indoor football stadium. Nearly 40,000 ministers attended possibly the largest gathering of ministers ever held anywhere. Some observers see Promise Keepers as a potentially forceful political movement in lock-step with religious political extremists. Many of the movement's current leaders are politically active.

Colorado won't pay for chaplains

Denver, Colorado From now on, Colorado taxpayers won't pay for chaplains in its prisons. The House State Affairs Committee said that the $300,000 cost was exorbitant. Rep. Phil Pankye (R-Littleton) asked why churches couldn't pay for the chaplains. Lucia Guzman, head of the Colorado Council of Churches, backed a bill to fund the chaplains and said the state and church "should be in greater partnership." With countless churches and missionary groups eager to evangelize, prisons should experience no shortage in free chaplains. While prisoners have a right to religious counsel, those services should never be at taxpayer's expense.

Christian leaders urge pro-life plank retention

Colorado Springs, Colorado Dr. James Dobson and more than a dozen other Christian leaders recently sent a letter to Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the GOP presidential primary candidates urging them to uphold the pro-life plank in the national Republican Party platform.

The letter, sent on Feb. 29, asks, "Since when have right and wrong been determined by the shifting sands of public opinion?" (Nationwide, most Republicans are opposed to the party's call for an anti-abortion amendment to the U.S. Constitution.)

"The Republican Party the party of Lincoln understood slavery as an unmitigated evil and fought a bloody war to eradicate it. They [sic] stood on principle not because it was popular or easy but because it was the right thing to do. We pray that today's political leaders will summon a measure of that courage and conviction in this critical year of decision."

Other signers included Dr. D. James Kennedy, John M. Perkins, Russell Shaw, George Weigel, Father Richard Neuhaus, Dr. Adrian Rogers, Dr. Charles Swindoll, Dr. Edwin Young, William Ball, Dr. Paul Cedar, Dr. Brandt Gustavson, Dr. William Bright, Charles Colson, Dr. Ted Engstrom, and Dr. Jim Henry.

A similar letter was not sent to Democratic Party leaders since that party has shown no openness to a pro-life plank in its platform. (Source: The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, March 8, 1996)

Christian Coalition split in Erie

Erie, Pennsylvania One of the Christian Coalition's most effective state organizations, the Pennsylvania Christian Coalition, broke its ties with the national group on December 23, 1995. Rick Schenker, former Pennsylvania Christian Coalition state director, formed a new group called the Pennsylvania Coalition.

Schenker publishes a newsletter called "Insider Report" for the new organization. In the January issue Schenker wrote, "We will try to retain a loose relationship with Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition, but we feel we can do more for the citizens of this state as an independent organization."

Schenker is developing what he calls "an internal political action committee." He said, "This is something we could not do if we remained officially affiliated. We were not able to help candidates that desperately needed it."

While Schenker is downplaying tensions between his group and the Christian Coalition, others don't see it that way. "We have been having major problems with Mr. Schenker for the past two years," a Christian Coalition source in Pennsylvania said. "The national office is now reforming a new chapter in Pennsylvania called the Christian Coalition of Pennsylvania, so as not to add confusion. Please, and I repeat, please do not send financial support to the Pennsylvania Christian Coalition, which is defunct, or the new Pennsylvania Coalition."

While Schenker seems to enjoy a lot of support for his new group, one former supporter wrote, "Since I strongly disagree with your break from the Christian Coalition, remove my name from your list. I will continue to support Ralph Reed's fine organization." (Source: cc watch)

Inside the CNP

Orlando, Florida Members of the secretive Council for National Policy met behind closed doors on March 8 and 9 at the Buena Vista Palace in this resort city. Much of the chatter focused on Bob Dole and who he might choose as a running mate. The ultra-conservatives at the conclave appeared ready to back Dole if he picks a explicitly antiabortion running mate. Dole would apparently face extreme opposition if he chooses anything but.

Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed hinted that CNP members might look elsewhere, perhaps to a third party, if Dole fails to sustain a full antiabortion ticket.

Reed urged CNP members to become delegates to the GOP's national convention in San Diego. Only by doing so, and in concert with Buchanan's delegates at the convention, could conservatives hold Dole's feet to the fire on pro-life, pro-family matters and, specifically, force him to choose a pro-life running mate. (Among others mentioned by Reed as not acceptable were Colin Powell and Christine Todd Whitman.)

Reed said there are "two stark moral choices." With all the problems today welfare, abortion on demand there still are some people who honestly believe that the solution is not a return to God, but another government program.

"The question is," Reed said, "which of those two paths will we follow?" He said that the revolution will not be complete until there is someone in the White House who, among other things, will legalize prayer in schools and sign the Contract with America. Reed, however, indicated that the prospects for that are not good. With Dole leading in delegates, what can be done to deal with him?

There is one good sign, according to Reed: "People of faith have been pouring into the primaries." Reed sounded a warning to moderates and Democrats. "You better get used to us, because we're going to be around for a long time."

Thus, according to Reed, the key issues going into the GOP convention are the party's and the nominee's pro-life and pro-family stand. That is why Buchanan's delegates matter. That is why conservatives must control 800-1000 delegates in San Diego if they are to have enough clout to force their position on these issues.

As for the vice presidential nomination, Reed said, there remains the possibility of a pro-choicer, like Powell or Whitman. If that happens, he predicted, "The Republicans will lose the White House...for having turned their back on the pro-life movement."

In other news from the Orlando meeting, Freedom Writer Magazine learned that Michael Farris is considering a run for the U.S. Senate. Farris, head of the Home School Defense League, and former attorney with Concerned Women for America, ran a hotly contested and unsuccessful race for lieutenant governor in 1992. Farris expressed his opinion that Virginia "needs Kay James or me." James recently left her position as head of Virginia's Secretary of Health and Human Resources to teach at Pat Robertson's Regent University. (Source: Jeff Truesdell of The Orlando Weekly, and several others contributed to this story.)

Coalition recruits GOP delegates

Chesapeake, Virginia In a recent letter to Christian Coalition supporters in Virginia, Ralph Reed wrote: "'Pro-choice' Republicans have organized a serious effort to pressure presidential candidates to pick a pro-abortion running a mate and force a retreat in the pro-life national party platform."

Reed urged Christian Coalition recipients of his letter to file by March 15 as a Republican delegate in order to keep the GOP antiabortion. He said it is important for them to be well-represented at the GOP convention is San Diego on August 12-15.

Then, to avoid the appearance of partisan politics, Reed added: "It is critical that you get involved in the party of your choice to express and support your views on pro-family issues." Reed listed the phone number of the local Democratic Party office.

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