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More troubles for Sovereign Grace ministries folk.  This hit the Washington Post today: A pastor known for promoting corporal punishment has been accused of physically abusing a woman for 25 years, beginning during her childhood. The Rev. Larry Tomczak, an associate pastor at Bethel World Outreach Church near Brentwood, Tenn., was named in a Maryland lawsuit that was filed against leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a denomination Tomczak helped found in the 1980s and later left. The suit was originally filed in October by three alleged victims of abuse and was amended Friday (Jan. 11) to add five others. All eight were given pseudonyms. It alleges that Tomczak, who lives in Franklin, Tenn., and other church leaders covered up sexual abuse in the denomination and at a Christian school in Gaithersburg, Md., in the 1980s and 1990s. Tomczak also is accused of repeatedly assaulting a woman (who is given the pseudonym Carla Coe) with plastic and wooden sticks. The alleged abuse began when she was a child and lasted more than two decades. When the woman was an adult, the lawsuit claims, Tomczak beat her bare backside. The suit doesn’t say where those incidents occurred or how he met the woman. Tomczak denies all of the allegations of physical abuse. He also said that as a parent, he was saddened to hear of the allegations. But he said he knew nothing about sexual abuse in the denomination. “I had no involvement in any of this,” he said. OK… so far, so bad.  Maybe he didn’t have any involvement in any of this, as he said. But then there’s this: A book called “The Little Handbook on Loving Correction,” for sale on Tomczak’s website, advises parents to use a stick to spank their children. He stands by that advice today. “That book has helped thousands of parents around the world,” he said. Wait. What? Most people who read this story in the Washington Post will not agree that spanking a child with a stick constitutes any type of loving correction. I don’t even believe that. (And I’m trying to stick up for the guy). No pun intended. If, for example, some kids were… oh… I don’t know… spanked with sticks in the Christian school that Tomczak was over, then I would think (in today’s culture and today’s laws, there would be at least some guilt of sexual abuse. Am I the only one who sees mixed signals here. Why do Christians and our Christian leaders get into these messes?  Don’t we see this stuff as troubling? And how do we expect people to believe us when we’re not making any sense? Please… let me know how wrong I am on this one. Leave a comment… // Read the whole article here…
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One of the city’s great Catholic church buildings, St. Stans, on Dubois Street,  is 100 years old and can be classified as a fixer-upper. It needs considerable repair. The real estate listing says the church has 22,000 square feet, with a sanctuary that seats 900, a choir stand, balcony and baptismal pool. Designed by Harry J. Rill, a Detroit architect, St. Stans has a Baroque exterior and an interior done in an opulent Beaux-Arts style, typical in elaborate Polish Catholic churches. St. Stans opened in 1913, during the frenzy of the early auto age, when the neighborhood was home to an increasing number of immigrants, especially Poles. Nearby churches include St. Albertus, St. Josaphat and Sweetest Heart of Mary. Suburban flight after World War II robbed the parish of many families, then the city cut the parish in two with the Ford Freeway, which runs a block north of the church, which is easily visible to motorists on I-94, just east of the Chrysler Freeway. In the early 1980s, the destruction of the neighborhood continued, with the construction of General Motors’ Poletown plant. // See a picture of the church here… Sounds like a deal to me… although the current owner bought the church for just $2,500 in a foreclosure sale.  🙂
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According to Tampa Bay Online: The pastor of Without Walls International Church confirmed Sunday that a $14 million deal is on the table to sell the church site near Raymond James Stadium. Randy White said there are “definitely no plans” to close Without Walls, once one of the largest independent evangelical churches in the country and now recovering from debt and scandal. In fact, a search committee began looking for a new site last week in anticipation of the sale going through. “We (are) looking for a venue within a 3-mile radius,” he said. Still, he said, it’s too early to call it a done deal. “The bank has to accept it. The church board has to approve it. And the buyers have to get permitting,” said White, who leads the nondenominational congregation. “But if this all goes through, it would be an incredible situation for us.” He said the church owes about $10 million to the California-based Evangelical Christian Credit Union for its two buildings on East Columbus Drive and North Grady Avenue. One houses the sanctuary and the other is the former administrative building. A $4.4 million contract is already in place for the administrative building and is expected to close in February. The buyers, The Richmond Group of Florida, recently made the offer for the second building, bringing the total purchase price to $14 million. The developer has applied to rezone about 11 acres to build 557 upscale apartments on the site. Michael Horner, who represents both Without Walls and The Richmond Group, told The Tampa Tribune last week that part of the project has already been approved by the city. Commercial development with restaurants and shops is slated for about 2.5 acres on the north portion of the site. Horner said an application for that phase of the project likely will be filed “within 30 days or so.” // Read more here…
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OK… well you knew it had to happen. Last month we told you about the new Theologian Trading Cards that were coming out just in time for Christmas. Well now, you have a chance to win a SIGNED N. T. Wright card. What would the value of that be? Great question. I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to put my signed D. L. Moody card on eBay after the first of the year.  I’m hoping I can make a couple of mortgage payments from the sale. Todd
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Gene Appel proves there IS life after Willow Creek. According to the Orange County Register: A sprawling building once devoted to the science of flight was rededicated Sunday with another reach-toward-the-sky purpose: as one of the largest churches in north Orange County. Eastside Christian Church paid $20 million for the former Boeing site and an additional $35 million to replace the office cubicles and test floors with concert lighting, a thundering sound system and 1,800 seats. The building reopened with a prayer – “Do mighty works in this room.” – and a pastor’s promise. “Friends, there will only ever be one sign on the door at this church,” senior pastor Gene Appel told the congregation on Sunday, with almost every one of those seats filled. “It’s this,” he said as he held up a welcome mat. And then he announced another expansion. The church plans to launch a Spanish-language ministry in the spring, led by Mexican rock musician-turned-preacher Hector Hermosillo. Eastside has seen explosive growth in the past few years that helped push it from its longtime home in Fullerton. Around 3,500 people now attend its services on an average weekend. Many credit Appel, who arrived at Eastside in 2008 with a kicked-back style (he preaches in jeans and an untucked shirt) and lessons drawn from his own life. He told the congregation on Sunday that the church is there for the “Hurricane Sandys that come along in our lives.” And he joked that the screen behind him – 20 feet tall and 38 feet wide – “has Super Bowl party written all over it.” The church bought 20 acres of old Boeing property in northeast Anaheim, near Anaheim Lake, mostly with donations from the congregation and the sale of its old Fullerton church. More here… Other interesting facts: The renovations: An 1,800-seat auditorium, classrooms, a nursery and children’s area, a cafe and small bookstore, a lounge area, and meeting places. Also 275 new trees, 13,000 new shrubs and bushes, and an outdoor play area The plan: The church plans to lease out most of a six-story building also on the property, possibly for stores, offices or a restaurant.
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Mars Hill Church is on track to open its 15th church in Tacoma next year. The church currently has a contract to purchase the building of the First Congregational Church at 918 Division Ave, adjacent to Wright Park, on the north end of the downtown area. The 104-year-old building had been up for sale and was in danger of demolition this spring, KING 5 News reported in May. Mars Hill’s bid was accepted this summer; the church plans to spend about $1.5 million in improvements before starting services in the fall of 2013. The Tacoma church will be led by Bubba Jennings, who served as a pastor for almost a decade at the original Ballard church before moving to the South Sound region to get the Tacoma church plant going. On Thursday, September 27, the nascent church will hold a public Vision & Prayer Night to dedicate the church building. “God’s heart for Tacoma is displayed at the cross where, in mercy, Jesus sacrificed himself to redeem, heal, and bless Tacoma,” says Jennings. “As Christians, we testify that God saves sinners like us and his grace is amazing. Our heart is for all the people of Tacoma.” Local pastor Dean Curry of Life Center church gave a warm welcome to Mars Hill Tacoma. “[Bubba and I] are brothers in the faith and [I] will enthusiastically speak with and for their success,” wrote Curry, who leads the multi-site church that sees about 6,000 Sunday attenders. “We will invite every friend of Life Center to pray and consider joining Mars Hill’s launch.” On the north end of Puget Sound, Mars Hill Everett will move into a new home this fall: the Everett Armory, located at 2730 Oakes Ave, in the middle of the city’s historic district. The church, led by Pastor Scott Mitchell, launched in September 2011 and has met in rented space at Everett Community College’s fitness center for the past year. For 90 years, two Washington National Guard units were stationed at the Armory until last fall when the units moved, leaving the Armory up for sale. The 40,000-square foot Armory will be a boon to the young church, which hosts 500 attenders at two Sunday morning services and has outgrown its children’s space. Mars Hill Everett is also hosting a public Vision & Prayer Night, Thursday September 13. The populations of Tacoma and Everett are about 200,000 and 104,000, respectively, according to 2011 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The news comes on the heels of the August 10 announcement that Mars Hill Downtown Seattle will move into the Daniels Recital Hall in the heart of the city.
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Current Events
An interesting story in yesterday’s Orange County Register that I admit I don’t fully understand. Seems that some tried to block the sale of the CC to the Catholic Diocease because of a 1987 lease that agreed to give the building and property to Robert Schuller Ministries in return for a 99 year lease. But nobody could prove that the lease actually existed. Schuller daughter Sheila Schuller Coleman testified on Monday that the congregation had paid the 99-year leas in full on Monday morning… all 99 years worth.  Grand total:  $99. But no one could produce the documents, so the judge said the sale goes through. Here’s where it gets even more weird.  Jim Penner was a member of both the Robert Schuller Ministries (now Crystal Cathedral Ministries) board AND the Crystal Cathedral church board.  Penner, by the way, is a son-in-law of the elder Schullers.  Penner was asked if this lease was in effect why he didn’t encourage the congregation to bid on the cathedral. Here’s the newspaper report of that part of it: Penner said both boards operated in secret, comparing his role to someone sitting on the boards of rival oil giants ExxonMobil and Texaco. If he had told the congregation what he knew from the ministry board, it would be like insider trading, he said. But the bankruptcy plans to sell the cathedral were public knowledge, creditor attorney Todd Ringstad said. Wasn’t it part of your duty as a board member to share knowledge with the congregation?, he asked Penner. Penner replied, “I think I did my job as a Crystal Cathedral Consistory member poorly.” // PROBLEM #1:  Having your son-in law on either board PROBLEM #2:  Having 2 separate boards, each with your son-in-law on it PROBLEM #3:  Each board operating in secret from the other, and having your son-in-law on each PROBLEM #4:  Having said son-in-law saying after the fact that it wasn’t a good thing PROBLEM #5:  Saying you have a lease and paying the lease for 99 years the day of a court proceeding without being able to produce an actual lease document. So… If I get this right… they are (were) trying to say that the church had a lease until 2086 and they can’t be kicked out; and putting all the responsibility on the CC/RS ministry? Let’s all say together:  throw daddy under the bus. The right thing to do at this point is to allow the sale, and pay all the creditors. Truth is… there’s no money left, from what it appears, in any accounts.  And the son-in-law should have seen that from BOTH sides. You can read more here…
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Current Events
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has filed a petition in bankruptcy court to block the sale of the 40-acre Crystal Cathedral campus to Chapman University, stating that the plan will not pay creditors in full and will set up the ministry for failure predicting that the cathedral, under that plan, could run out of cash by next May. The diocese’s offer for $53.6 million is the better and more superior bid for the Crystal Cathedral property compared to the $50 million offered by Chapman University, its attorneys argue in the petition filed Friday. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has filed a petition in an attempt to block the sale of the Crystal Cathedral to Chapman University. Last week, Crystal Cathedral administrators announced that their board has selected Chapman as the preferred buyer. Papers with regard to the sale are expected to be filed in bankruptcy court Monday. A confirmation hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 14. The difference between the two plans is that while Chapman offers the church the option to lease back core church buildings and buy them back within five years, the diocese’s plan calls for a three-year leasing plan and proposes that the ministry move to an alternative worship space offered by the diocese at a reduced rate, according to the diocese’s petition. Crystal Cathedral Ministries will also then have the option to buy that property at 90 percent of the market rate, the filings state. The diocese states that based on Crystal Cathedral Ministries’ revenues and expenses over the last year or so, it is highly improbable that they will make the monthly lease payments ranging between $150,000 and $215,000 to Chapman. This will cause the ministry to default on lease payments and get forced out of the campus or liquidate their assets, the diocese states. Crystal Cathedral “is attempting to sell the campus for a lower price while taking on a greater risk,” the diocese’s court filings state. Donations to the cathedral have plummeted since it filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors a year ago, according to monthly operating reports filed in court. The ministry collected $2.3 million in donations last November, its first full month in bankruptcy, versus just $1.3 million in September, a 42 percent decline. via The Orange County Register. // This seems to make sense to me.  The CC wants to take the deal that they think will give them the best chance of staying in their facility.  But the case that they will not be able to make the lease payments also seems plausible. QUESTION:  Do you think the CC will still be a church in 5 years? Todd
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Current Events
Well… the Crystal Cathedral board has come to the realization that they will ultimately have to sell the landmark church. But to who? The CC board has picked Chapman University as their preferred buyer.  Chapman’s bid is $50 million, roughly the amount owed creditors by the CC. Chapman would allow the CC to ‘rent’ the main cathedral building for $150,000 a month (with some increases) for about 15 years… then the CC would have an option to purchase the property back. Problem is… the local catholic diocese has offered $53.6 million… with the stipulation that the CC would have to move out in 3 years.  Of course, the CC board doesn’t like that option. From what I can tell… it will go to the hands of the judge to make the final verdict, but it looks like the creditors may be in favor of this deal. In one of the corniest and oddest statements yet… Robert Schuller has now switched his focus and dream: “We look forward to focusing on our new dream: buying the core campus back.” Now THAT’s positive thinking! Todd via latimes.com.
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