Megaministry Monday: Speedy Departures, the IRS, and Preacher Gabfests

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    This was a spiritual and moral mistake on my part as I began to depend on alcohol for my refuge instead of Jesus and others.” Perry Noble, Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church.

    It has been a rather sad week for megaministry. Perry Noble, the pastor of America’s eighth largest church, has been asked to step down over concerns about Perry’s “posture toward marriage, increased reliance on alcohol and other behaviors.” Noble’s goofball personality and shoot-from-the-hip exegetical style made him famously popular with his skyrocketing church and famously unpopular with, say, the Southern Baptist Convention. Though the situation is extremely difficult for the NewSpring church family, it is worth mentioning that this is still something of a success story. With so few accountability structures in megaministry, the fact that the church’s executive board was able to create a culture of spiritual obligation deserves a hearty and heartfelt congratulations.

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    Women are either frightened or become victims of manipulation and falsehood … We ask you to protect all who have already suffered, and also potential victims who are under the influence of manipulation and wizardry.A letter of appeal from parishioners against their pastor, Sunday Adelaja, leader of the Europe’s third largest church.

    In stark contrast to Perry Noble’s swift removal, some scandal-plagued leaders continue to be at the helm of their churches. The Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations in Ukraine is a massive prosperity megachurch and the third largest church in Europe. Its leader, Pastor Sunday Adelaja, was once the celebrated Nigerian revivalist who built a thriving multiracial Pentecostal church in the heart of the Ukraine. But he has been dogged by allegations for years. Now parishioners have sent a letter of protest that Pastor Sunday has been allowed to remain in leadership after being accused of many wrongs, including sexual misconduct. According to Charisma News, Sunday has now been officially defrocked by the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith. Despite this, Adelaja still seems to be fully in command of his empire.

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    At 52 years old, I am excited that my next phase of life will be as an episcopal leader. I am humbled to the fact that this is historic.” The newly-elected Sharma Lewis, first African American female bishop of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.

    In 1988, Leonine Kelly, the then-retired first African American woman ever to be elected bishop in the United Methodist Church, told the Black Clergywomen of the United Methodist Church (BCWUMC) that she didn’t want to die as the only black female bishop. Because of the historic elections in 2000, where 3 of the 5 UM jurisdictions elected African American female bishops, when Bishop Kelly died in 2012, only Linda Lee remained active.

    Today the stain-glass ceiling she cracked now seems an ornate stairway to ecclesial leadership. This week’s bright spot came with the first election of an African American woman to the United Methodist episcopacy in sixteen years. And not only one, in fact, but four African American women were elected as bishops. You heard me—FOUR talented women. Rev. Sharma Lewis is a former biologist-turned-pastor in the Southeastern Jurisdiction and the first African American woman ever elected there; Rev. Tracy Smith Malone is a life-long Methodist from the North Central Jurisdiction (“You raised me and formed me,” she said in her statement); Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, also married to a UMC pastor, is from the Northeastern Jurisdiction and passionate about being a “bridge-builder” in Baltimore; and, also from the Northeastern Jurisdiction, LaTrelle Miller Easterling has a law degree and a “passion for the marginalized.” Their gifts will be a boon for the aging UMC who, like all mainline churches, are searching for the pulse of today’s pressing issues.

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    I think it’s an idea whose time has come. In the television landscape, especially with Fox, they gave ‘Lucifer’ the nighttime show they gave ‘Preachers’ the daytime show … give us something. John Gray on his new talk show, The Preachers

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    foxThere’s a new daytime talk show in town called The Preachers featuring four (you guessed it) preachers ready to chat about hot topics like open marriage and police brutality. Three of the hosts will be familiar to megaministry world—John Gray, associate pastor at Lakewood Church, Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, and E. Dewey Smith Jr. of The House of Hope in Atlanta. The show is on a three-week test run, but so far it landed Bryant in some hot water for joking that he believed in an open marriage but (yuk yuk) forgot to tell his ex-wife. So there’s that. Much like The Preachers of LA franchise, it’s a puzzler. Highly respected people like Gray have a lot to lose with a slip of the tongue.

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    IRS probe of televangelist Robert Tilton’s church draws court challenge.

    Today’s time warp moment is brought to you by Robert Tilton, who is gaining headlines for the same dramarama that made his name synonymous with “televangelist” and “scandal” in the early 1990s. While the church was still reeling from Jim Bakker’s conviction and Jimmy Swaggart’s tears, televangelist royalty Robert Tilton met a media firestorm when he was accused of dumping prayer requests in the trash after extracting the money to the tune of $80 million a year.

    Now, the Internal Revenue Service is investigating his church and Robert Tilton’s finances are under scrutiny once again. These investigations don’t typically topple ministries, but in this case, it feels like an odd blast from the past. And, speaking of weird nostalgia, Ohio audiences can go see a new play about Tammy Faye Bakker entitled “Tammy Faye’s Final Audition.” It claims to “take her faith and her journey very seriously,” and I hope that’s true.

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