Andrew Goes To Church
The saying goes, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” If so, churches across the nation have shown themselves true friends to one another in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, which ripped through southern Florida and Louisiana in late August. The storm, which left at least 38 dead and caused between $15 and $20 billion damage to Dade County, Florida, impaired or totally destroyed many churches and homes, leaving 117,000 people temporarily homeless. Even so, there are reports of renewed faith among some believers.
“I would describe the [church] response as overwhelming,” said John Swisher, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), who is PCA director of disaster relief for southern Florida. “It seems as though for the most part the denominational lines are down, which doesn’t happen very often.”
Of the 60 evangelical churches in the city of Homestead, 90 percent of which was demolished, all were damaged and 15 to 20 were totally destroyed, according to Walter Sawatzky, pastor of Homestead Mennonite Church and vice-president of the Ministry Association of Homestead. Reports indicated that many churches in Florida City and Miami suffered extensive damage; walls were blown in and roofs were tom off.
The Miami Christian radio station WMCU, the area’s only English-language evangelical radio station, lost its broadcasting tower in Homestead. Station manager Steve James estimated it will be 12 to 18 months before the station fully recovers its former power and coverage, which spanned a 100-mile radius. The station, which is supported financially totally by listeners, must raise an estimated $60,000 to regain temporary service, which will at best cover only 70 to 80 percent of its former market.
Churches nationwide immediately began sending everyday supplies, work teams, food, and money to the region, providing not only for their denominational congregations, but for other churches and the unchurched as well. Joyce Kauffman, director of Community Services for Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, said 10 to 12 church groups a day from California to Michigan were calling to offer supplies or money. Work crews from other states flooded the county to the point that local churches decided to save their own resources for later.
Less than two weeks after the hurricane, survivors were just beginning to come out of shock and assess their lives. Swisher and others reported plans for counselors to come and help process what they say is the confusing emotional after-math. Even so, Sawatzky reported a revival of spiritual understanding among his congregants: “People’s testimonies have said one thing, and that is that ‘I’ve needed this hurricane. I’ve needed to be shaken.… We were spiritually stuck because we were so insulated by our material things.’ God is going to be doing some special things with people.” Presbyterian author and radio personality Steve Brown of Key Life Radio was one whose home in Miami was destroyed. Said Brown: “It puts things in such perspective. When you do things to please people instead of God, when you fit into Christian molds … all of that, including [material] things, is secondary. The only thing important is that you belong to him, that he’s in charge, and that you can trust him.”
Sawatzky also said that more unchurched or former churchgoers were attending the Mennonite services as a result of help given by the Mennonite Disaster Service, which has helped to roof houses in the community.
—By Linda Midgett
Arts Protest Curtailed
A Christian activist group is calling off its two-year campaign against the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Christian Action Network (CAN) has been lobbying against the NEA for allegedly funding “homoerotic and blasphemous art.”
Martin Mawyer, president of the Lynchburg, Virginia-based organization, said his group’s decision to stop the campaign was precipitated by a meeting with acting NEA chief Anne-Imelda Radice, who assured him that the American public will now have access to information on grants awarded by the NEA.
According to CAN, the White House received 500,000 petitions in support of their campaign against the agency.
Health Care, Not Abortion Funds
For several years, prolife Presbyterians in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) have unsuccessfully opposed the denomination’s health-care plan’s coverage of abortion. Now, according to a compromise plan, prolife Presbyterians will be spared having to support abortions with their own dollars.
According to the plan, church entities contributing to the health-care plan on behalf of PCUSA employees may withhold the portion of their contribution used to pay for abortions (about 3 percent) and direct it instead toward reducing expenses for Presbyterian families who adopt children.
People And Events
Taxed: Churches in Berkeley, California, which may have to pay taxes like other nonprofit organizations in the city. The Berkeley city council announced in July that churches would be taxed 60ȼ for every $1,000 they receive in contributions, plus an annual $51 license fee. Several churches lobbied against the ordinance, spurring further review by council members.
At press time, city officials were withholding a final decision on the matter pending further discussions with church leaders, a spokesperson for the City of Berkeley told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. The law in question exempts “charitable” organizations but defines them as not having paid employees, disqualifying most churches.
Though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that taxation of churches is constitutional if they are included in a larger category, some church/state observers said the Berkeley plan might involve “excessive entanglement” of government agencies with church groups by requiring tax authorities to monitor church contributions.
Such entanglement would violate the high court’s church/state separation standards, they say.
Correction: The August 17,1992 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY (p. 50) said Lloyd Hildebrand once served as executive director of the former Logos International Fellowship. He served as executive editor. CT regrets the error.
Received: By Evangelicals for Social Action, a $260,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, to launch a public-policy program linking doctoral students at prominent universities with public-policy experts. Students will produce papers in which they bring a biblical perspective to bear on public-policy issues.
Suing: Anna Mooy, 34, part-time voice teacher for three years at an Assemblies of God college, who lost her job because she is a Mormon. Mooy has filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against North Central Bible College in Minneapolis. A lawyer for North Central said an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act permits church-related colleges to “exercise discretion in hiring based upon religious affiliation of faculty members.”
Approved: The North American Baptist Conference, as the seven-hundredth organization in ECFA, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
Appointed:Dr. Glenn R. Bucher, as president of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, on July 1.
Sued:Oral and Richard Roberts, by the New Inspirational Network, for nearly $300,000 in unpaid broadcasting bills. The Robertses did not return CT’s calls.
Died:Eastern Orthodox scholar, theologian, and ecumenist John Meyendorff, 66, from cancer. The retired dean of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York, Meyendorff’s writings appear in at least 12 languages and include the scholarly works Christ in Eastern Christian Thought and Byzantium and the Rise of Russia, as well as the collections of articles, editorials, and reflections Orthodoxy and Catholicity and Witness to the World.
Mindless School; Far-Out Park
Meditate on this: the formation of a university specializing in Transcendental Meditation (TM) in a former military town in Illinois, and the building of a theme park in Canada with rides such as the “Magic Flying Chariot Ride” and the “Seven Steps to Enlightenment.” Does that sound like big business? Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, most famous for introducing TM to the Beatles, thinks so.
The proposed university would be located in the Chanute Air Force Base, which is scheduled to close in 1993, in Rantoul, Illinois. Officials in the town of 20,000 are eager to find a replacement for the base. Even so, town officials are not thrilled with the proposed Maharishi International University, which applied to the U.S. Department of Defense to get the land free.
Rantoul residents fear the meditators would form an enclosed community that would not benefit the town’s economy. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged the federal government to decline the request.
Meanwhile, the guru has teamed up with magician Doug Henning in Toronto to build a billion-dollar TM theme park called “Veda Land,” which would contain 33 rides and attractions, including a courtyard of illusion with a building that would “levitate” 4.5 meters above a pool of water. The park would create a total of 5,000 jobs, according to Henning. Plans for the park were announced last March, but the Canadian newspaper Christian Week says construction will not begin for at least two years.
Top Christian Producer A White Supremacist
A prominent Christian music producer was recently convicted in a Nashville U.S. District Court on charges stemming from an attack on a Nashville synagogue more than two years ago. But it was Jonathan David Brown’s admission that he is a member of the Christian Identity faith, whose members believe whites are God’s chosen people and Jews are descendants of Satan, that has stunned many of his colleagues. “They just can’t believe it,” said John Styll, publisher and executive director of Contemporary Christian Music magazine. “This is not the guy they thought they knew.”
Brown is well known in Christian music circles. Over the years, he has produced many of the industry’s top acts, including Petra, Greg X. Volz, Bob Bennett, Twila Paris, Glen Campbell, Morgan Cryar, and the Bill Gaither Trio.
Prosecutors charged that Brown helped a skinhead, Damien Patton, flee prosecution for firing into a synagogue in June 1990.
Brown claimed he was simply trying to minister to members of white supremacist groups. However, prosecutors introduced membership cards issued to Brown from both the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation and uncovered a cache of weapons belonging to Brown.
—By Lee Elder
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