127 Sponsors Quit “Donahue”

A Fort Worth, Texas, dentist is spending his spare time drilling Phil Donahue. Richard B. Neill has convinced 127 sponsors to stop advertising on the syndicated talk show since beginning a one-man crusade last April.

Hoping to shield his six-year-old daughter from group-sex proponents, mother-daughter stripper teams, and homosexual “marriages,” Neill circulated petitions to Forth Worth-area churches demanding the local affiliate move “Donahue” from its 9 A.M. slot to after 11 P.M. Despite 9,000 signatures, the station was unmoved. So Neill began targeting the sponsors.

“Many of these [advertising] executives are family people—they don’t have any idea what they’re advertising on,” says Neill, 36. Among the nationwide sponsors to stop advertising on the show are General Mills, Revlon, Woolworth, Baskin-Robbins, and Johnson’s Wax.

“I do not apologize for a moment for any programs,” Donahue said in an interview published in Focus on the Family’s Citizen.

Meanwhile, Neill says, “I’d love to have him off the air, but I don’t think that’s realistic. The key is getting people to write letters. Sponsors are the Achilles’ heel of the television industry.”

Robert C. Turner, president of Multimedia Entertainment, which distributes “Donahue,” says the program does not “titillate” or amuse by “innuendo, smut, and exploitation.” He says Neill’s boycott has not hurt the “Donahue” show in advertising or audience ratings.

PTL Partners Lose Yet Again

Former PTL supporters who paid large sums of money to become “lifetime partners” at televangelist Jim Bakker’s Heritage USA may never collect on the multi-million-dollar fraud judgment handed down against Bakker. The U.S. Supreme Court has left intact a decision that said PTL’s insurance policy was not liable for paying the partners back.

In civil proceedings, the bilked PTL investors had been awarded nearly $130 million. However, Bakker’s liquidated assets failed to cover the award. Now the high court has let stand a federal court’s decision that said PTL’s insurance policy against “negligent misstatement” did not cover Bakker’s fraud.

Some 150,000 people paid about $1,000 each to become lifetime partners in PTL. Bakker was convicted in 1989 for cheating investors out of more than $150 million in his South Carolina retreat and Christian theme park.

Churches Defy Rules on Homosexuals

San Francisco churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) are making no secret of their opposition to their denominations’ stances on homosexuality.

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Dolores Street Baptist Church severed ties with the SBC effective January 10, citing recent SBC action against churches that affirm homosexual lifestyles. Last year the SBC disfellowshiped two North Carolina churches—one that licensed a homosexual to the ministry and another that performed a marriage-like ceremony for two men. The SBC also amended its constitution to bar churches that affirm homosexual lifestyles. Churches in Houston and Washington, D.C., also have quit the SBC because of its newly articulated stance on homosexuality.

First United Lutheran Church, however, is not giving up on its denomination quite so easily.

In January, the 60-member congregation installed Jeff R. Johnson, who is openly homosexual, to serve as senior pastor. The move does not sit well with the church’s denomination, the ELCA, which bars practicing homosexuals from ordained ministry.

An ELCA court earlier suspended First United when it and its sister congregation, Saint Francis Church, installed Johnson and two lesbian colleagues to staff positions. The court gave the churches until the end of 1995 to discharge the three controversial staff members or be expelled.

Michael Cooper-White, an associate of Bishop Lyle G. Miller, whose synod includes San Francisco, says by its move the congregation is signaling its clear intention to disregard the deadline.

If they are expelled, First Lutheran and Saint Francis would be the first since ELCA’s founding in 1988. Several San Francisco ELCA churches intend to continue to embrace the church even if it is expelled from the denomination.

Samaritan’s Purse Rejoins ECFA

Once again Samaritan’s Purse (SP) and World Medical Missions (WMM) are members in good standing with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

ECFA suspended the ministries last March, citing concerns over board oversight (CT, Aug. 17, 1992, p. 47), and later rejected the groups’ June reapplication for membership, SP and WMM are headed by Franklin Graham.

ECFA president Clarence Reimer said both ministries “have represented to ECFA that all matters giving rise to the suspension of their membership have been addressed.”

The groups were asked for further information on the cost of fund raising as a percentage of income; board approval for Graham’s involvement in a particular charity event; and explanation of advance budgeting procedures. After receiving that information, ECFA accepted the application the groups submitted in June.

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Briefly Noted

Former Vice-president Dan Quayle has secured a seven-figure sum for his account of his White House years. His memoir, to be copublished by HarperCollins and Zondervan, will describe how his family’s religious faith helped them endure harsh public scrutiny.

• For every two churches started in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), one disbands, reverts to mission status, or for some other reason ceases to be a church, says a study by the SBC’s Home Mission Board. During the past 19 years, Southern Baptists averaged 430 church starts annually; an average of 233 churches were removed from association rolls each year. On average, all Protestant denominations lose the same percentage of churches each year, explains church consultant Lyle Schaller.

• Church leaders in Florida are relieved that arsonist Patrick Lee Frank, who confessed to torching 17 churches there, was found innocent by reason of insanity and will be confined to a mental institution. Walter Horlander, executive director of the Gainesville-based council of churches, said, “We were very relieved in the way the court ruled. It means he will be institutionalized for life and treated.”

• Authorities at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will not bring heresy charges against controversial ethics professor Paul Simmons after all. Simmons had been under fire for five years because of his views on homosexuality and abortion (CT, Feb. 8, 1993, p. 55). But he resigned in January after several students complained when he showed a video on the possibility of sexual relationships for victims of spinal injuries. The video was part of coursework on pastoral care. Simmons says he told students viewing was optional.

• Two groups within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have united to form the National Hispanic Presbyterian Caucus. The group will have permanent committees on congregational ministries, social-justice advocacy, and networking and communications.

• Now you too can walk through the “newly created universe,” “the Garden of Eden,” and even the “regime of sin and death,” at the Institute for Creation Research’s recently opened 4,000-square-foot Museum of Creation and Earth History in San Diego.

Paige Comstock Cunningham has replaced Guy Condon as president of Americans United for Life (AUL), a Chicago-based legal and educational prolife organization. Born in Brazil and raised in Latin America, Cunningham has been at AUL for 12 years.

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Howard W. Ferrin, chancellor emeritus of the United College of Gordon and Barrington and former president of Barrington College, died in January after a long illness.

Colson Wins Templeton Prize

The 1993 winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion is Charles Colson, president of Prison Fellowship. Investor John Marks Templeton created the prize in 1972 to honor those who advance the world’s understanding of religion—an area he felt the Nobel Prizes failed to recognize. To underscore the point, Templeton stipulated that the monetary value always be larger than the Nobel’s. This year’s prize is £650,000 sterling—just under $1,000,000.

“When I first learned of this award,” Colson said, “I was driven to my knees, humbled and grateful to the Lord.”

Colson said the funds would be used to further the work of his prison ministry.

Past Templeton Prize winners include Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, and in 1992, Kyung-Chik Han, founder of the world’s largest Presbyterian church.

Church Ordered to Return Gift

Bruce and Nancy Young of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, are devout Christians who continued to tithe after their electrical contracting business went bankrupt.

But a federal judge ruled that the couple’s 1990 contributions to the Crystal Evangelical Free Church of New Hope, Minnesota—nearly $13,500—amounted to a “fraudulent transfer” and ordered the church to surrender thousands of dollars given by the Youngs.

William Sisterson, executive pastor of Crystal Free, said his congregation has the choice of paying the money or appealing the decision by mid-March. He said the congregation’s board has voted to appeal because of important issues involved, such as “the increasing intrusion by the state into the affairs of the church.”

It would have been more cost effective to have settled out of court early on, Sister-son said, but the board believed the case should be pursued because of the important principle involved.

Legally, the Youngs may keep buying food and other necessities, but they are otherwise supposed to conserve their resources for creditors.

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