Feed the Children Questioned

The Christian relief organization Feed the Children may not be as efficient as it says it is, and it may be exaggerating the scope of its charitable work, says a story in a recent issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. But president and founder Larry Jones says his ministry is “not doing anything wrong.”

Among the claims made in the journal’s December 15 story: Feed the Children has failed to disclose to public and state regulators details of large amounts of donated commodities; many of its programs seem to have little religious content—though it is organized as a religious charity; and, while the ministry meets the standards of the Better Business Bureau and the Ethics and Financial Integrity Commission of the National Religious Broadcasters, it has failed to meet the standards of two other watchdog groups.

Jones defended his accounting procedure, saying it “meets the standards that the law and my auditors say are necessary.” And as for the religious content of his programming, he said, “You can hear a sermon on TV or radio any hour of the day. But how many people are addressing the problem of hungry and dying children?”

Will he begin to do anything differently? Jones said his ministry will very likely change the way it values relief commodities donated by other organizations.

Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Among the controversies that emerged when copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls were first made widely accessible in the fall of 1991 were questions over the documents’ authorship.

Robert Eisenman of California State University at Long Beach is one of the authors who challenges the prevailing view that the documents represent the views of a small Jewish sect, the Essenes.

The book in which he expounds that view, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, coauthored by Michael O. Wise of the University of Chicago, was the center of controversy at a December meeting of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars in New York City.

During the conference, critics of the book issued a statement that said the authors made inaccurate statements and failed to give other authors proper credit. But they later retracted their statement and “all that it implies.”

Wise said he was sorry “the documentation for certain portions of the book … was incomplete, and that [he] did not more fully express indebtedness to colleagues” whose work he consulted.

The critics’ unsigned retraction also reaffirmed “the authors’ right and that of all scholars to publish Qumran [the Dead Sea region where the scrolls were discovered] texts and to make properly acknowledged use of the work of others.” It concluded with a pledge to forge ahead in studies of Dead Sea Scrolls “in the spirit of collegial friendship.”

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While the controversy raised at the conference seems to have been resolved, the debate over the documents’ authorship remains. Wise, an evangelical, told CHRISTIANITY TODAY that though he was coauthor, he did not agree with all of Eisenman’s conclusions. “I was responsible for transcription and translation—not analysis.”

According to Eisenman, the scrolls describe a messianic movement that in its later stages was virtually indistinguishable from the rise of Christianity.

The upshot of that view is that “the Gospels reflect a Gentile, Pauline version of Christianity rather than a Jewish Christianity based on the writings of James,” Wise explained. “I don’t think the scrolls are as closely related to early Christianity as he does.”

Religious Broadcasters to Join ECFA

As of this month, the Ethics and Financial Integrity Commission (EFICOM), the ethics arm of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), will “cease to exist,” according to a letter sent last month from NRB president David Clark to EFICOM members.

By terms of an agreement between the NRB and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), all tax-exempt members of NRB with income and/or expenses in excess of $500,000 annually will be required to become members of ECFA. Smaller groups will be monitored by an expanded NRB ethics committee.

At press time, the proposed change was due to be incorporated into the revised NRB constitution and bylaws at the group’s annual convention being held this month.

NRB executive director E. Brandt Gustavson told CHRISTIANITY TODAY the move will allow NRB to do better “what it is called to do—to proclaim the gospel message and to improve the quality of religious broadcasting.”

NRB established EFICOM in January 1989 in an effort to police the financial and ethical practices of its tax-exempt organizations.

Church Exemption Upheld

Churches in New Jersey will be exempt from provisions of a state civil-rights law protecting homosexuals against discrimination, said the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. But that exemption may not apply if the church cannot prove its beliefs are “sincerely held,” said Thomas Neuberger, a Rutherford Institute lawyer.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) had sought an injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the law. While the court rejected that request, it said in its ruling that attorneys from the state’s Division of Civil Rights had agreed to an exemption for churches with sincerely held beliefs against homosexuality.

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Tanya Domi, civil-rights project director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says exemptions for churches are now being included in much antidiscrimination legislation.

But exemptions, when particularly worded, may not go far enough in protecting some churches, says Neuberger, one of the two attorneys representing the church. “We consider this a victory for churches like the OPC or the Catholic church,” he told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. “But what about smaller, more independent churches? The law should say it applies to no church.”

Briefly Noted

Hoping to present news to both Christian and secular audiences in an objective, balanced way, Pat Robertson launched his own agency, Standard News, last month. In its startup phase, through an arrangement with Reuters, the agency’s crew of 15 reporters will rewrite Reuters’ international newspaper reports and transmit them to radio stations via computers. A reported 600 stations (about 6 percent of the market) have already signed on.

Wheaton College has announced its new president. A. Duane Litfin, scholar, theologian, and churchman, will succeed J. Richard Chase, who has held the post since 1982 and will retire at the end of July. Litfin currently serves as senior pastor of the 1,400-member First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

Gordon MacDonald, nationally known author and pastor, has accepted a call to return as senior pastor at Grace Chapel, Lexington, Massachusetts. He left the church in 1984 and later publicly admitted to an extramarital relationship, which was followed by a lengthy process of “discipline and restoration.” He has been senior pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Manhattan. MacDonald may be back in the Grace pulpit as early as March.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary officials are unhappy with what a seminary ethics professor, Paul Simmons, thinks about abortion and homosexuality. They voted against a settlement that would have paid Simmons up to $362,000 to leave his tenured post, but they may now draft heresy charges and initiate firing procedures.

J. Robert Williams, an avowed homosexual ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1989 by Bishop John S. Spong, head of the Newark Diocese, died in Boston in December of an AIDS-related pulmonary infection. Williams, who wrote Just As I Am: A Practical Guide to Being Out, Proud and Christian, left the Episcopal Church to join the Western Orthodox Catholic Church in America, a small, independent denomination.

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