Spotted this week in and around Indianapolis: a lot of folks driving convertibles with the tops down! Yes, we finally cracked the 80 degree mark and made a move toward summer. How I wish I had one of these impressive Nash Ambassadors to tool around town in! And what a sweet paint job! That is one gorgeous machine.
The wind’s in our hair this week as we ramble…
- Happy 90th birthday, Queen Elizabeth!
- R.I.P. Prince.
- Good riddance, Curt Schilling.
- Welcome to the $20 bill, Harriet Tubman.
- Happy 26th anniversary to the Hubble telescope, which celebrated by releasing a picture of the “Bubble Nebula.”
- Bully for Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who signed an order that will allow 206,000 felons who have completed their sentences the right to vote.
- R.I.P. Doris Roberts, screen mother who struck loyalty and fear in the hearts of sons everywhere.
- Kudos to Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta, who threw his second career no-hitter in a 16-0 thrashing of the Cincinnati Reds (sorry, Jeff).
In recent months, the city of Garland, Texas (pop. 230,000) has lost about 1/3 of its “payday” lenders. According to an article in Christianity Today, a local church had a lot to do with their leaving.
Nobody could be more delighted at their demise than Keith Stewart, senior pastor of Springcreek, Garland’s largest church. Springcreek will not tolerate what Stewart calls the “predatory loan business.” Stewart estimates something like a third of his congregation of 1,700 have been put through the wringer after they (or their family members) secured loans with interest rates easily within the range of 200 to 500 percent.
But Stewart says the interest rates are only part of the problem. Loan origination fees and penalty fees for non-payment are among the crippling burdens imposed on borrowers. And if a poor unfortunate really can’t repay, lenders are more than happy to offer new loans with a raft of new fees, forcing clients further and further into a debt trap that quickly proves impossible to escape. As Stewart put it: “They take a desperate person and make them destitute.”
Though the church practiced generosity and helped many people financially and with material goods, the pastor yearned for justice in the system that enslaved people to debt and prospered at the expense of their misfortune. So, when Garland’s city council met to debate an industry-sponsored ordinance that the minister considered ineffective and self-serving, Stewart and people from his church showed up in force to speak against it and to advocate for a much stronger law.
Stewart chuckles at the recollection: “There were nine items on the agenda that evening. There were about two or three people to speak on every agenda item, and we had 50 people from Springcreek walk in. So all of a sudden the city council takes notice.”
When it came time to discuss the lending issue, Springcreek members—one after another—stood up to relate their bruising experiences at the hands of lenders. By the time it came to the vote, the industry-sponsored legislation didn’t stand a chance. Councilors unanimously voted for the much tougher ordinance, known as the Texas Municipal League Model Payday Ordinance.
Pastor Stewart is now speaking to pastors in other cities, urging them to act, and is involved in promoting statewide action.
“The gospel is bigger than personal salvation,” he adds. “God wants transformation of all systems and structures affected by sin.”
For the life of me, I don’t know why C.J. Mahaney keeps insisting on preaching and why his friends at Together for the Gospel continue to encourage him. After sitting out their biennial conference in 2014 under the shadow of a lawsuit regarding an alleged child sex-abuse cover-up at his former church, Al Mohler introduced him last week at this year’s gathering in Louisville and Mahaney held forth. This despite advocacy groups that publicly protested his appearance.
On Sunday, he defiantly preached and exhorted his congregation (Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville) to “stand by God’s man.”
Preaching from Hebrews 13: 17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account,” Mahaney said one responsibility of church membership is “a joyful disposition to trust and protect the pastoral team.”
“Any slanderous comment about the pastoral team should be challenged, and if necessary resolved,” Mahaney said. “Why? Because the pastors are just sensitive souls, because pastors are so sensitive? No. That protection is needed in order to preserve the trust, in order to protect the unity of this church. That’s why that’s needed ultimately, for the advance of the gospel from this church.”
Mahaney noted that some people feel uncomfortable with language of authority, obedience, and submission, and that it may be related to bad experiences of abuse with authoritarian leaders. [You think?] “I want to make real clear — that isn’t going to happen to you here,” he declared.
I agree with Michael Newnham, the Phoenix Preacher, who wrote a scathing response to Mahaney’s TG4 appearance.
That complex is concerned only with the well being of the leadership, and only with the top of that pecking order.
In introducing Mahaney he introduced with approval a man who is implicated in the largest sexual abuse scandal in evangelicalism in our time.
He did so with approval and without a hint of censure.
Mohlers introduction wasn’t just intended to bring Mahaney to the microphone…it sent two other messages.
The first message was to the protestors outside the building and online.
That message was that these leaders do not care about either the protests or the victims they represent.
Evidently, the “tenth mark of a healthy church” is that the leaders have no conscience.
The second message was to those inside the hall…the 8000 from all over the world who came together under these leaders.
That message was that Mahaney is one of our own and you will accept him as one of your leaders.
They willingly acceded to the tyranny in hopes of being a tyrant one day themselves or lest their current tyranny be exposed and they need powerful friends.
This…is the modern template of what it means to be a “Reformed pastor”.
From the National Catholic Reporter:
The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence.
Members of a three-day event co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic peace organization Pax Christi have also strongly called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other “major teaching document,” reorienting the church’s teachings on violence.
“There is no ‘just war,'” the some 80 participants of the conference state in an appeal they released Thursday morning.
“Too often the ‘just war theory’ has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war,” they continue. “Suggesting that a ‘just war’ is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict.”
“We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence,” say the participants, noting that Francis and his four predecessors have all spoken out against war often. “We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence.”
Fifth-graders and parents from Stevens Elementary in Seattle staged a “camp-in” outside their school Friday morning to protest the cancellation of a much-anticipated camping field trip, which was to take place at the end of the school year. But parents recently received a letter saying the trip to Camp Orkila in the San Juan Islands wouldn’t happen because of a paperwork issue.
The students, who have been looking forward to this trip since kindergarten, were disappointed, and their parents say the cancellation is part of a larger issue at the school. They think teachers are worried about field-trip liability, especially in light of recent issues on some high-school field trips in Seattle and the Highline School District, and the termination of one Garfield High School teacher over violations of district field-trip rules.
“This is a symptom of a larger administrative failure,” said parent Heather Timm as kids chanted, “What do we want? Camp! When do we want it? Now!”
The world’s oldest known living tree — appropriately named “Methuselah” — is 4,847 years old. Methuselah is a bristlecone pine in Central California’s Inyo National Forest, but there are no pictures available of it, nor is its location known, except by the forest service. All they will say is that the ancient tree resides in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest portion of the park.
There is apparently no way to know a tree’s age just by looking at it, but researchers look for certain markers to tip them off. Bristlecone pines grow slowly, about one-hundredth of an inch in a good year, that it makes it difficult to accurately determine their age. There is another tree in the forest that some think may be more than 5,000 years old, and researchers are still examining it.
This weekend, we welcome my brother-in-law Eric Wyse, who is leading a Day of Sacred Music tomorrow at the church where my wife directs choir. Eric is an accomplished keyboardist, songwriter, church musician, and record and video producer. Eric has recorded four collections of solo piano music called “Reflections,” which are available at MartingaleMusic.com, along with other music, including The Christian Life Hymnal, which he edited.
On Sunday, he will participate in morning worship and then give an afternoon concert, playing solo pieces on the organ and duets with Gail, and accompanying the church choir, who will be singing music he has written and arranged.
Here’s Eric playing “Amazing Grace,” from one of the Reflections albums. Peace be with you.