Last year was an interesting year for the church in terms of controversial decisions being made and scandals arising. Andrew Hamilton-Thomas takes us through the top 5 and offers some advice on how we can respond.
The problem with controversies and scandals within the church is that it undermines the Gospel that we are trying to preach because we don’t appear to be singing from the same hymn sheet (no pun intended). It gives skeptics more reason not to want to be a part of the faith. With that being said, looking back on the Christendom news stories of 2015, here are 5 of the top controversial decisions and scandals and three ways that the church can combat them.
1. The board of World Changers Church International approves Creflo Dollars request to purchase a 65 million dollar jet for ministry
Creflo Dollar, a well-known prosperity preacher based in Atlanta made a request in a 6 minute video back in March to his 200,000-member congregation to ‘sow’ $300 towards the purchase of a 65 million dollar Gulfstream G650, after an incident involving his previous jet which lead to it permanently being grounded (CNN16.03.15).
200,000-member congregation to ‘sow’ $300
2. World's first Lesbian Bishop calls for church to remove crosses and incorporate Muslim Prayer space
Back in September, Eva Brunne, the world’s first openly lesbian Bishop called for a church in her diocese to remove all Christian symbols including crucifixes and instead display markers indicating which way to pray towards Mecca, for the benefit of Muslim worshipers. Her justification was to allow Muslim sailors visiting the church located in Stockholm’s eastern dockyards, to be able to pray so that we don’t come across as being ‘stingy towards people of other faiths’ Breitbart 05.10.15).
3. The rise of Christian-themed reality TV shows and how it portrays our faith
Inspired by the popularity of secular reality shows such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians, after the debut of Preachers of L.A. (PoLA) back in 2013, Christian-themed reality television programming has been on the rise. However, while PoLA drew some criticism from the Christian community, the Lifetime reality show ‘Preach’ which followed the lives of four unconventional Christian prophetesses was cancelled after only a month when the network received over 15,000 signatures for it to be taken off air because of the ‘diva’ like behaviour from the stars of the show. (Change.org)
The network received over 15,000 signatures for it to be taken off air
4. Archbishop of Canterbury commissions an independent review into the handling of sex offence allegations made against a bishop 20yrs ago
Sex abuse scandals involving young males within faith-based organisations is something more commonly associated with the Catholic Church. However, in October last year Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester respectively, was arrested for a string of offences against teenagers and young men in the Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury launched an independent review into the abuse by Ball, after claims of a cover-up (with one of the victims accusing the senior clergy at the time of being more concerned with the Church's reputation than the victims) (BBC News 16.12.15).
5. The rise of LGBT Christians
Since the creation of civil partnerships and the legalizing of gay marriage in the UK and US, the LGBT agenda has influenced the Church. In early 2015, it emerged that an engaged gay couple at the NYC branch of Hillsong had been leading the choir (Daily Mail 06.08.15) and although the Church branch claimed to have no knowledge of their sexual orientation, the couple claimed to have been open about their relationship from the very beginning. (The Christian Post 10.08.15). So as we enter 2016, we can only expect controversies and scandals within the church to be on the increase seeing as scripturally, we’re in the last days.
Here are 3 ways that Christendom should respond:
Prayer and Fasting
When Jesus’ disciples asked why they couldn’t heal the demon-possessed boy, He informed them that although their faith was lacking, particular types of demons cannot be cast out except through prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:19-21). As Christians we should be praying and fasting religiously as Christ did, so that when we come up against the enemy in our own congregations (be it in the form of a scandal or something else), we are spiritually equipped to respond and don’t get the same response as the Sons of Sceva.
Studying the scriptures
Hosea 4:6 says my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge and Luke notes in Acts 17:11 that the Berean Jews were nobler than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily to see whether those things were true. In doing this we gain discernment and won’t be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, as is written in Ephesians 4:14.
'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge' Hosea 4:6
Being much more vocal
As Christians we need to get more used to the idea of being vocal about our beliefs, which will inevitably upset a lot of people. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:13 that we are the salt of the earth, but if we lose our flavour we become ineffective and therefore useless. Being empowered with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) is vital for effective ministry and because of this we see the likes of Stephen, Peter and Paul (to name a few) who were able to speak out without fear of persecution.
I could possibly list more, but by praying and fasting along with studying the scriptures, we become more discerning to the subtle tactics the enemy uses to try to infiltrate and discredit the Church. In doing so, we allow ourselves to be empowered with the Holy Spirit to gain the boldness we need to speak out against wrong doing in the church and controversial stories in the media.
Words by Andrew Hamilton-Thomas
Andrew is an aspiring political journalist, cartoonist and contributor for the Orator & Croydon Citizen