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An Honest Sermon

Plagiarism, the pulpit, and how to appropriate others' ideas appropriately.

Last spring Edward Mullins, rector of Christ Church Cranbrook, served a 90-day suspension issued by the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. He was being investigated for an increasingly common but confusing charge—plagiarism. Mullins's messages were found conspicuously similar to the words of Jim Cymbala, Texas pastor Phil Ware, and sources from the Online Pulpit.

Mullins's story has served as a catalyst for the debate about preaching and plagiarism. Some have declared Mullins's actions unethical and Mullins himself unfit for pastoral ministry. Indeed, just a few months prior to Mullins's suspension, the pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri, resigned after admitting to homiletic plagiarism.

Others have rushed to Mullins's defense, such as a church member quoted in The New York Times: "People come to church for his sermons, whether they're his, they're incorporated, or however he does it. He puts the message forth that needs to be put forth."

Others have claimed that what ...

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