Third-generation Baptist minister Scott Allen learned that his wife and children were infected with the AIDS virus in 1985 when he was on the associate staff of a Disciples of Christ church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. When he told his pastor, he was asked to resign. Stunned by the response, Allen left Colorado in search of a more accepting church. He says he never found one.
While in some cases his family found acceptance among individuals, they were frequently shunned by pastors or larger groups within churches. “There were many individuals who helped and supported us,” Allen told Christianity Today. One church even adopted an AIDS policy for its daycare program. “But it was the church as a larger institution that failed us,” he said.
“His situation is not unusual,” says Shepherd Smith, president of the Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy (ASAP). “It’s happening in a lot of churches.”
And Allen’s experience highlights what some evangelical experts say may be one of the primary weaknesses in the church’s response to the AIDS crisis: Individuals and congregations are often willing to address the issue, but lack institutional guidance—whether from pastors, denominational officials, or other church leaders—to form a ready response.
Allen’s wife, Lydia, became infected through a blood transfusion in 1982. Both her sons, Bryan and Matthew, were infected in their mother’s womb. When the family left Colorado in 1985, they moved to Texas where they sought fellowship in several different churches, five of which were Baptist. (Allen’s father, Jimmie Allen, was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention in the late seventies.) But many churches turned Allen’s older son, Matthew, away from Sunday school. Another asked the family to conceal the boy’s condition.
Exhausted and disillusioned, Allen eventually stopped trying to find a church, quit his ministry, and began to work on projects for the Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the General Baptist Convention of Texas.
It is the church as an institution, rather than individual Christians, that is ineffective in dealing with AIDS, many experts contend. “There is some good happening,” says Duane Crumb, director of the evangelical AIDS Information Ministries, “but it’s on a small scale.”
For instance, there are over 1,800 separate AIDS relief and education programs run by churches in the U.S., says Kenneth South, director of the ecumenical National AIDS Interfaith Network.
But, South says, the effort got started slowly and is guided by individual ministers and congregations rather than by denominational or other leaders. Travis Berry, vice-president for church relations at Baylor University Health Care System, says he has had contact with hundreds of congregations concerning AIDS. “Many are heading in the right direction informally, in nonofficial ways, but they lack specific direction and example—sometimes from pastors, other times from denominational leaders higher up.”
Crumb agrees that lack of institutional leadership inhibits the church from adequately coping with AIDS. He also says that lack of formal leadership should not keep laypeople from assuming leadership roles.
Churches wanting information on how to form AIDS policies can contact Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy, P.O. Box 17433, Washington, D.C. 20041; AIDS Information Ministries, P.O. Box 136116, Fort Worth, Texas 76136; or Dr. Travis S. Berry, Baylor Health Care System, Brandywine Place, 730 East Park Blvd., Suite 202, Plano, Texas 75074.
Few evangelical denominations have come forward with official, denomination-wide AIDS policies, notes Smith. He named the Assemblies of God and the Church of the Nazarene as two notable exceptions.
In addition, according to Crumb, only a small number of denominations, including the American Baptist Churches (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Church of the Brethren, have issued official statements on ministry to persons with AIDS.
Smith said, “Too few high-profile evangelical figures have lived out the example of the Good Samaritan.” Notable exceptions in this area, he said, are Christian author and speaker Tony Campolo, National Association of Evangelicals Executive Director Billy Melvin, and Christian musician Steve Camp, whose song “Do You Feel Their Pain?” urges the church to address the issue with compassion.
Why the lack of leadership? Many people are hindered by apathy, fear of the disease, or judgmentalism toward people with AIDS, Crumb explains.
If church leaders want to turn this trend around, experts recommend they take the following steps:
• “Study, pray, and know exactly where you stand—before you are faced with a situation like the Allens’,” says Crumb.
• Adopt new Sunday-school policies. Rather than single out infected children, “churches need to assume that every child that comes in could have AIDS,” Crumb adds.
• Support sex-education curricula in schools and churches that stress abstinence, says ASAP’s Smith.
Some churches and denominations may be willing to take a bolder step, such as working with secular groups providing services to people with AIDS. Crumb says that he has found “tremendous support” for his group’s approach to AIDS education from secular organizations, including Planned Parenthood and homosexual groups.
While America’s churches are puzzling over the problems AIDS presents, the Allens are coping with life—and death—on their own. Scott Allen, who now consults with the University of Texas on a project dealing with care of people with AIDS, says he has had a theological and ecclesiastical break with his Baptist roots as a result of his experience. “I don’t have animosity toward Christianity,” he says, “but my faith is slowly evolving.”
The Allens’ infant son, Bryan, died soon after their move to Texas. Lydia Allen was 38 when she died last February at her home in Dallas. Matthew is “functioning well,” Allen said.
By Thomas S. Giles.
Mtv Opposes Censoring Violence, But Not The Gospel
MTV (Music Television) does not believe in censorship. In fact, “End Censorship” is the name of the music cable channel’s ongoing campaign, which was spurred by the recent flap over cop-bashing rapper Ice-T. When Ice-T caught flak from large, secular organizations for encouraging youth to consider engaging in violence against police, MTV jumped to the rapper’s defense.
But when an alternative rock band at a major Seattle-area music festival recently was told by festival officials that they could not talk about Jesus between their songs, MTV officials at the event looked the other way.
Scott Burell, a member of the Christian rock group In Reach, said his group was told before an October performance at the “Taste of Edmonds” (Wash.) that “if we started talking about God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, [management] would unplug us.” Concerned that they were being censored, Burell and his group turned for help to the MTV officials stationed at a nearby remote van, where a huge anticensorship poster of Ice-T hung. But MTV offered no help. MTV spokesperson Cherly Jones later told Christianity Today that “if [In Reach] expected us to intervene on their behalf, they were sadly mistaken. We’re not going to get involved in what a promoter tells or doesn’t tell a group.”
“Even if it involves censorship?” CT asked Jones. “I can’t answer that,” she replied.
By Perucci Ferraiuolo.
Praising All The Day (And Night) Long
Do you ever wish you could be in church all day, every day? The creators of a nonstop cable network service called WORSHIP think their video church may be the closest you get, this side of heaven.
The show provides 24 hours of music, prayer, and Bible study, led by ministers, along with nature scenes intended to inspire worship. In an attempt to “focus on God, not man,” the Clearwater, Florida, sanctuary is designed for television and does not have pews, cofounder James West told Christianity Today. West, who is president of the Christian Network, Inc., the not-for-profit parent organization of the service, founded the program with Lowell “Bud” Paxson, creator and president emeritus of the Home Shopping Network (HSN). Paxson left HSN in 1990 to develop worship, which began programming on September 28.
Phone numbers are printed during the service for viewers to call “fellowship partners.” These partners give appropriate Scripture if needed or register prayer requests, which are sent to a “prayer room” where at least three people will pray. These numbers also allow viewers to donate to the service, which is financed by contributions. The founders say any excess revenue will be donated to other ministries.
Madonna Ousted From Library
After phone calls from irate citizens, officials at the Pikes Peak Library in Colorado Springs, Colorado, plan to return ordered copies of pop singer Madonna’s new coffee-table book, Sex, to its publisher.
The library had followed normal procedures for ordering the book, which features photographs of the rock star’s sexual fantasies, involving violence, bondage, and lesbianism. However, citizens complained, many threatening to vote against a local bond issue that would benefit the town’s libraries. Senior library officials reviewed a pirated copy of the book, provided by Focus on the Family, and decided to return the copies after their arrival.
Rapture Date Set—Again
Once again, the date of Christ’s return has been predicted—this time, it is set for 1994. Harold Camping, host of the call-in radio program “Open Forum” and president of Family Stations, makes that case in a book entitled 1994? recently published by a subsidy book publisher, Vantage Press. But not all of the book’s buyers are sold on Camping’s timetable.
The book has met with considerable criticism, says Bill Alnor, author of Soothsayers of the Second Advent.
Alnor says he disagrees with the book. For example, Camping “looks for bizarre, hidden meanings in several biblical passages,” and thus erroneously sets the dates for the creation of the world, Christ’s birth, and, ultimately, Christ’s return, he says.
Both Alnor and B. J. Oropeza, a researcher for Christian Research Institute, call the practice of setting dates for Christ’s return “unscriptural,” citing Acts 1:7, where Jesus says, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
Camping denies that he has searched for anything “bizarre” in Scripture. “God has clearly laid out a timetable for history in the Bible,” he argues, “and I have studied it carefully.”
He also denies that his date setting is unscriptural, saying that “there are many things God has withheld from the beginning until an appropriate time; this is the time that God is opening our spiritual eyes to some of those things.”
Roll Over, Handel
“A black version of Messiah?”
That is what Gail Hamilton, the former manager of the a cappella group Take 6, asked when she received a call from an agent proposing the idea. “Initially, I just couldn’t figure it out,” Hamilton told CT. “I wasn’t sure how we could do it.”
But after making some calls to 26-time Grammy Award-winner Quincy Jones and to original Take 6 member Mervyn Warren, Hamilton began to catch the vision. The result is Warner Brothers Records’ recent release of Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, coproduced by Hamilton, Warren, and Norman Miller, who produced Handel’s Young Messiah a few years ago.
The project brought together mainstream and Christian African-American artists, ranging from BeBe and CeCe Winans to Stevie Wonder and Patti Austin. Jones directs the celebrated “Hallelujah” chorus, which is performed by such stars as André Crouch and Johnny Mathis. While seven of the numbers are arranged by Warren, the others are arranged by each group’s or artist’s producer. The result is an adaptation of Handel’s Messiah that chronicles the evolution of African-American music from its African roots through its myriad American manifestations including Gospel, Blues, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, and Hip Hop.
Just as the first performance of Messiah was a charitable endeavor, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the album will go to the Children’s Defense Fund.
Frank Tillapaugh, internationally known speaker and author of Unleashing the Truth and Unleashing Your Potential, has completed the process of church discipline begun in July of 1991 (CT, Aug. 19, 1991, p. 44) and has been reconciled with his former church. Tillapaugh, former senior pastor of Bear Valley Church in Lakewood, Colorado, resigned after admitting involvement in a longstanding adulterous relationship.
During Tillapaugh’s 20 years of ministry to the church, the congregation grew from a small group to about 1,200 members.
In a recent statement, the restoration committee said that “after consulting with one another and with Frank’s counselor, [they] feel he has made significant progress in his spiritual, physical, and emotional accountability, and … is genuinely repentant for his sins and for the grief he caused the Lord, family, church, and friends.”
According to a church spokesperson, Tillapaugh is now working with a new parachurch group, the Church and Christian Support Guide.
People And Events
Appointed: John Sproule, as president of Washington Bible College/Capital Bible Seminary. Sproule has served as interim president since May 1991.
Richard Mason, as chairman of the board of Sports Outreach America. Mason, first vice-president of the board of directors for the National Religious Broadcasters, succeeds Kyle Rote, Jr.
Don Kammerdiener, as interim president of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, replacing the retiring Keith Parks.
David Howard, former international director of the World Evangelical Fellowship in Singapore, as senior vice-president at David C. Cook Foundation.
Retired: Robert Meye, professor of New Testament interpretation and dean of the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, retroactive to August 1.
Roy Honeycutt, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, effective December 31, 1993.
David Ramage, eighth president of McCormick Theological Seminary, effective August 31, 1993.
W. Richard Stephens, president of Greenville College, effective June 30, 1993.
Resigned: John Brown III, president of John Brown University, at the end of the 1992–93 academic year.
Kenn Gulliksen, a founding father and church planter of the Vineyard movement, from the board of the Association of Vineyard Churches. Gulliksen said he “feel[s] led in a different direction” and that his continued presence “would be inappropriate and undermining to the unity of the Vineyard movement.” With his exit, three major leaders of the Vineyard have recently formally departed the movement. The other two are Jack Deere and “prophet” Paul Cain (CT, Aug. 17, 1992, p. 48).
Pledged: One million dollars to Presbyterian-related Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author James A. Michener. The gift will be named the Mari Sabusawa Fund in honor of Michener’s wife and will be used to endow scholarships for racial and ethnic minority students.
Died: Well-known author and Calvinist William White, Jr., after a long battle with diabetes. White had over 50 published works.
Announced: Robert Preus, president of Concordia Theological Seminary (Ind.), is taking a 15-month sabbatical, the latest development in a bitter leadership struggle at the school of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Preus’s decision comes after a July agreement that restored him to the presidency three years after the board forced him to retire (CT, Nov. 9, 1992, p. 42). “I’m a figurehead president,” said Preus, who contends he has been stripped of his “spiritual functions” as president. Preus will continue to raise funds for the school while the search for a new president begins.
Stricken: Rep. Paul Henry (R-Mich.), with a malignant brain tumor. Doctors in Grand Rapids, Michigan, removed 90 percent of the tumor behind the evangelical congressman’s right eye on October 21, three days after Henry complained of severe headaches. Henry, the son of theologian and journalist Carl Henry, will be undergoing cancer treatment in coming months.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.