Fred Phelps dies

By Rick Hiebert. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission

Fred_Phelps_10-29-2002 WikipediaFred Phelps, the former pastor (as he had recently been excommunicated by his extremist Westboro Baptist Church), died today.

The National Post reports that he passed away in the wee hours of March 19-20. He was in a hospice and had been suffering from serious health problems recently.

No doubt you are well aware of the infamies of his ministry, but if not, Wikipedia has a useful introduction.

Phelps had been banned, along with other members of Westboro Baptist, from entering Canada in 2008 after announcing his plans to stage an anti-Canada protest at the funeral of a Winnipeg man.

Also, it was rediscovered last fall that Fred Phelps graduated from Prairie Bible Institute.

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The “Filipino-Canadian priest” who is front page news

By Rick Hiebert. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

The name of Father Fernando Suarez may be familiar to Catholics in the Toronto area. But Filipino community readers across Canada will certainly now know of him as he is the cover subject of The Filipino Post

Father Suarez, the Vancouver based free paper notes, made a bit of a splash in 2002 and 2003 when he was based in Ontario. He retains a Canadian-based non-profit charity, Mary Mother of the Poor. But he is probably best known, though, as the “Healing Priest”, who conducts faith-healing masses that, according to the Filipino Post, bring cities in the Phillipines to “a standstill.”

Suarez is still a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Ottawa but the Filipino Post notes that Suarez has been expelled from the Toronto Catholic Archdiocese, where Suarez was an associate priest at St. Timothy’s in North York in 2002 and 2003.”

Suarez returned to the Philippines a few years ago, and gained clout in the Catholic Church, as well as politically and financially. The Post adds that this apparent power has raised “fear and apprehension.”

He’s front page news in the Philippines in the past couple weeks, as the English-language national newspaper there, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, has done a series of stories on Suarez. [The Filipino Post story has "the Inquirer" all over it, so it seems they are trying to do a "matcher" story following the Inquirer's work]

Fortunately, the Philippine Daily Inquirer has a website, so I can direct you to two of their recent stories. Here, Suarez, defends himself against criticism of ‘how his Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) Foundation has been handling its finances and to allegations that he is living a lavish lifestyle.”

Another story reports on how the “so-called healing” priest’s plans for a major building project in the Philippines was set aside by a local planning authority.Father Suarez had planned to include in the project a Marian shrine with a statue of Mary bigger than the Statue of Liberty.

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ResultSource – Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill NYT Best Seller List – ministries buying their way to the top

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill church in Seattle have been getting attention again, this time for the choice to use a company called ResultSource to push one of Driscolls books onto the New York Times bestseller list.

The focus the past week has been on Driscoll, which begs the question, who is behind ResultSource?
It turns out, the company which for a fee helps authors make bestseller lists was started by a man named Kevin Small.


Small attended Liberty University from 1990 to 1993, and in 1995 went to work for a pastor/leadership guru named John C. Maxwell.


An INJOY partner is EQUIP. (More in a moment) From a site called Marriage Mentoring where Small chairs the Board of Directors:

In 1996, Kevin Small was recruited by the leadership development author John C. Maxwell. Kevin was tasked with the creation of a platform that would be used to bring Maxwell’s leadership books to market. As the President of Maxwell’s company, Kevin launched a satellite event training series that would enroll over 1 million students while rolling out an integrated publishing platform that launched four New York Times bestselling leadership titles.

Maxwell’s annual book sales grew to over 1.2 million books. Under his leadership, the company grew dramatically over the next four years – from 10 to 125 people, and from $2 million to $25 million in revenue. Kevin managed the company’s sale in November 2004.
In March of 2005 Kevin founded The Marcus Buckingham Company around bestselling author and Gallup Researcher, Marcus Buckingham. For the next three years Kevin built a research and training company around Buckingham’s body of work developed after Buckingham left The Gallup Organization. Kevin served as the Executive Producer for Buckingham’s award winning film, Trombone Player Wanted, and launched the book, Go Put Your Strengths To Work, which was debuted with a dedicated Oprah show and a national book tour.

Meanwhile, the book business was changing quickly. Publishers were less and less able to commit the usual level of resources to authors’ launches. Kevin recognized that market conditions would soon require that authors have their own marketing representation in order to have impact — despite the strength of their ideas, or their platform. Kevin’s response was to form ResultSource, a boutique marketing firm that works with today’s thought leaders to build bestsellers.

Today Kevin Small serves as the Managing Partner to ResultSource as well as where he agents business, self help and Christian Living books.

INJOY is now part of The John Maxwell Company. John C.  Maxwell claims to have published 71 books, and some since Small came on the scene made best seller lists.  Maxwell is a teaching pastor at Christ Fellowship out of Florida.

John C. Maxwell church bio

Sure enough, if you head over to ResultSource, a couple of Maxwell’s books are front and centre. So, how expensive is it to buy your way onto a US bestseller list? According to the contract Mars Hill signed with ResultSource, it costs about 210 thousand dollars.

ResultSource is open about how they get evangelicals to pay up for one of Maxwell’s books, including bulk buying.

Maxwell book

The John C. Maxwell Leadership Center

As well as pastoring and running his corporation, Maxwell started a non-profit leadership organization named above called EQUIP. The current CEO of Crossroads Christian Communications Inc., Dr. John Hull, took the helm of EQUIP in 2000.


In September 2013,  John Hull became the Global Chief Executive Officer of Crossroads. He appears on 100 Huntley Street regularly. Right now, 100 Huntley is peddling Hull’s book, published by Thomas Nelson, the same publisher of the Driscoll Real Marriage book which is the focus of the current kerfuffle.

Hull book

Pivotal Praying was published in 2002, back when Kevin Small still worked for John C. Maxwell. I need to be fair here, I see no evidence that Hull/Elmore used Small’s talents to push their book or paid him to peddle their product; after all Hull was running a non-profit. Like Mars Hill is. I see no evidence Hull used Small to develop his ‘brand’ like Maxwell and Driscoll, or flew around in a Lear jet on a whirlwind book tour.  Ministry is big business in some sectors in the US with well cultivated fan bases and eager consumers.

Real Marriage scrubbed pageWhich brings us back to Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill and Real Marriage. I mentioned that hiring a firm like ResultSource is not illegal, but the case can be made it isn’t ethical. Oh wait, the IRS has a rule for non-profits called inurement.   Some ministry leaders who can afford to buy their way to the top, seem to be doing so, rendering key best seller lists irrelevant, eroding trust and blurring so many lines, I can see why people question what is different about Christians. We Christian consumers have to take some blame, we’re so blinded by celebrity and marketed definitions of success, we can’t see and discern the values of the Kingdom.

Forbes:  Here’s How You Buy Your Way Onto The New York Times Bestsellers List
Wall Street Journal: The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, Real Marriage
World Magazine: Unreal sales for Driscoll’s Real Marriage
Dr. James Duncan:  Mars Hill responds to the book marketing story and I respond to their response
Dr. Warren Throckmorton: One Way Mars Hill Might Have Helped Put Mark Driscoll on the NYT Best Seller List
Dr. James Duncan: See how the ResultSource Campaign made Mark Driscoll a half million dollars
Dr. James Duncan: Mark Driscoll prepared hundreds of leaders to “push,push,push” his book
Dr. Warren Throckmorton: Mars Hill Removes Reference to Real Marriage as NYT Best Seller from Mark Driscolls Bio 
Christianity Today: Mars Hill Defends How Mark Driscoll’s ‘Real Marriage’ Became a Bestseller
Dr. James Duncan: On Driscoll, it’s called inurement and it’s probably illegal
Christian Post: Mark Driscoll Takes Apologetic Tone During Sermon; Mars Hill Church Board Addresses Latest Controversy
Phoenix Preacher:  Christian Post Reporter Rips Driscoll Critics
The Atlantic: Can Megachurches Deal with Mega Money in a Christian Way?
Warren Throckmorton: Where Did ResultSource Go?

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The “Toronto Blessing” 20 years later

By Rick Hiebert. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

Interesting article from Christianity Today in my inbox this morning.

Time flies, and it has been 20 years since the revival broke out at the former Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. Now, the magazine has sent journalist Lorna Dueck back to Catch The Fire (Toronto) to see if there is lasting fruit.

You may find the article here. Some things that jumped out at me, which may jump out at you too…

Continue reading

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100 Huntley Street US

The, Oh My God! from April Hernandez in the promo at 1:42 is um…er… ah…sets a tone for 100 Huntley Street US brought to you by the Canadian evangelical charity/broadcaster Crossroads Christian Communications Inc.

The show, hosted by April Hernandez and Eric Metaxas is currently scheduled to run on CW+ and ReelZ starting March 9th.

Twitter: @100HuntleyUS

Update: The video with Ms. Hernandez reacting with “Oh, my God!” has been edited. I don’t think breaking the third commandment would go over well with viewers. The expletive has been removed.

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Bill Gothard placed on leave by his board after abuse allegations

Since 2011,  the  people behind the website Recovering Grace have been “ helping people whose lives have been impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). ”

Recently Recovering Grace has been publishing stories of young women who worked directly for Gothard; giving them room to detail the sexual harassment, and the emotional  spiritual manipulation they experienced. As well the inability of people to expose and stop him in the past has been made public by the website team. Recovering Grace initially looked at the harm created by Gothards theology:

When we launched our website in July of 2011, we did so with the express mission of helping people whose lives have been impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard through the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) seminars and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) homeschool program. We have attempted to fulfill that mission through regularly posted articles primarily written by former students of ATI—articles that have covered a wide variety of issues such as theological discussions of IBLP teachings, personal stories of discovering grace, and bringing to light some of the darker aspects of working at an IBLP Training Center. What we truthfully did not realize at the time of our launch was the strong undercurrent of depravity displayed for decades at the highest levels of IBLP leadership. Our thought at the time was that the most viscerally damaging effects of Gothardism were spiritual,and that Bill Gothard’s worst flaws were theological and hermeneutical. As such, most of our attention for the first year of our website was focused on these areas.

In early 2012, this all changed for us when a young lady shared with us her experiences working for Bill Gothard at Headquarters.

Recovering Grace recently published documentation of attempts in the 1980′s to hold Gothard to account (unsuccessfully) and of the dismissal of his brother for sexual misconduct with several female staff.

News outlets have been picking up on what Recovering Grace has been posting and  getting the attention of Institute in Basic Life Principals senior leadership.

George Mattix, executive international director at IBLP, told The Christian Post Thursday that the board was aware of the accusations made against Gothard and would prayerfully consider what course of action members would take before releasing any public statements. Mattix had initially passed CP’s request for comment on the allegations to the nonprofit’s attorney, whom he said subsequently turned the matter over to outside counsel.

b. gothardThat was February 14th. Yesterday, the  current board of directors has placed Bill Gothard on administrative leave.

“After completion of the review, the board will respond at an appropriate time, and in a biblical manner.” Until then, the statement said, Gothard “will not be involved in the operations of the ministry. The board of directors will be prayerfully appointing interim leadership.”

…Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principals was once a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Gothard”s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among devotees of the Quiverfull movement, who promote large families and eschew birth control.

He’s also rubbed shoulders with Republican luminaries. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sunny Perdue spoke at one of Gothard’s conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences anddeclared Wasilla among Gothard’s “Cities of Character.”

Gothard is 79 and unmarried.

IBLP headquartersGothard had been dismissed in the past from his organization (his dismissal lasted 17 days) and he came back even stronger. It is believed his seminars have been attended by 2.5 million Americans. According to former workers his predatory behavior continued   after his short lived dismissal in the 1980s.

Religion News Service:

The allegations against Gothard dovetail financial woes. In recent years IBLP’s net revenue has dropped significantly, and the ministry is losing money each year. In 2009, they reported a net income loss of $1 million, a loss of $4.1 million in 2011, and a loss of $3.5 million in 2012, according to their most recently available tax forms. Its net assets dropped from $92 million in 2010 to $81 million in 2012.

The Institute in Basic Life Principles, based in Chicago, is registered as a Canadian charity, called Basic Life Principals International.  IBLP has offices in several other countries. The Canadian branch appears to be in financial decline. There is also Chinese language Canadian website for IBLP.

The story of Bill Gothard, IBLP, ATI, his other groups and his associations with powerful people is, frankly; scary and sobering. As you read Recovering Grace, you’ll begin to understand how he gained so much influence and control and how he has remained unaccountable for so long. The courage of those who have stepped forward to tell their stories cannot be underestimated.

Update: Bill Gothard has resigned as President of IBLP and affiliated entities according to the Administrative Director of the Advanced Training Institute.  Religion News Service:

“Most recently, Mr. Gothard communicated to the Board of Directors his desire to follow Matthew 5:23-24 and listen to those who have ‘ought against him,’” Waller’s email said. “To give his full attention to this objective, Mr. Gothard has resigned as president of the Institutes in Basic Life Principles, its Board of Directors, and its affiliated entities.”


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No Oscars for Dominionists?

By Rick Hiebert. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission

In the run-up to the Oscars, you may have noted that a song in the film Alone Yet Not Alone was nominated for an Oscar this year.

It was though to be quite a feather in the caps of the filmmakers, all ostensibly devout Christians. So, Christians were dismayed when the nomination was recently rescinded by the Academy. The makers of the song had broken Academy rules in campaigning for their song among Academy members voting for songs.

There was a bit of hue and cry. Hollywood is biased against us Christians! This rule would never have been enforced this way against…! As you would expect.

But, I want to bring attention to this issue in order to cite Peter T. Chattaway of the Patheos website. His follow-up post on the disqualification of the song, I think perhaps in this case points to what Paul Harvey used to call, on this radio show, “The Rest Of The Story.”

In a few years, it could explain a lot.

Continue reading

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Bob Jones University rehires G.R.A.C.E.

After a boatload of negative publicity, Bob Jones University has re-hired G.R.A.C.E.

The announcement was made by the school this morning.

BJU Reengages GRACE To Complete Independent Review

Greenville, S.C. (February 25, 2014) – Bob Jones University today announced that it has reached agreement with GRACE to complete the independent review of the University’s response to sexual and other abuse.   The independent review was initiated by the University in response to a series of national news stories about abuse at other institutions.  The purpose of the review was to assess past responses by the University in support of victims and identify policies and procedures that could be enhanced.

Bob Jones University suspended the review on January 27, 2014.  Bob Jones University met with GRACE on February 18-19, 2014, to discuss any issues that might stand in the way of GRACE’s completion of thorough, transparent and objective review.  GRACE satisfactorily addressed the University’s concerns and Bob Jones University is confident the review can be completed in a timely and professional manner.  To be clear, GRACE and BJU are united in their commitment to a review that is thorough, transparent and objective.  As the process moves forward, regular updates will be provided.

BJU appreciates our former students and others who participated in the review with GRACE. They demonstrated great courage to share their stories in an effort to help us improve. We appreciate how important this review is to everyone who cares about the University and we apologize for the added anxiety caused by the temporary suspension of the review.

News of the termination of G.R.A.C.E. reached far beyond the evangelical world and local news outlets when the organization was abruptly dumped by BJU  in January, just weeks before it was to release its report on past abuse and how Bob Jones U can improve response.

G.R.A.C.E. will be releasing an announcement on the reinstatement this afternoon.

Update:  G.R.A.C.E.

Late last week, GRACE informed BJU that reinstating the original agreement with modifications was the only way to insure that the independence and integrity of
this process is not compromised. We requested that BJU reinstate the original agreement so that GRACE could immediately move forward and complete this critical process.
GRACE was greatly encouraged this morning to be notified by BJU of its decision to accept our offer to reinstate the original agreement with no changes.

…The events of the past month will significantly postpone the completion of this process.

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