Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 24, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 24, 2007

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Megachurch Fires Minister Amid Probe
  • OBI Gives Away 10 Tons of Books to Help Inner-City Children
  • Some Mainline Church Officials Condemned on Abortion Stance
  • Southern Baptist Agency Mismanaged, Claims Former Director

Megachurch Fires Minister Amid Probe

The Christian Post reports a longtime minister of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis was fired weeks after being suspended for what the church called "a moral failure" 17 years ago. The church conducted an internal investigation following allegations of child abuse. On Monday, the church's personnel committee voted to terminate Paul Williams. A report of the investigation will be presented to the congregation on Sunday. "The decision was made because of the nature of his past activities, even though there had been no evidence of any of those continued activities for the last 17 years," said administrative pastor David Coombs, who headed the church's investigation. While Williams' trespasses aren't yet public, some church members have said the claims involve abuse of a child and that the Rev. Steve Gaines, senior pastor at Bellevue, didn't act fast enough when he found out about them.

OBI Gives Away 10 Tons of Books to Help Inner-City Children

The Libraries for Literacy event held Dec. 9 in New York and sponsored by Operation Blessing helped stock libraries for more than 30 schools and non-profit educational groups, with each group receiving about 1,000 pounds of new books. "We are thrilled to have a colorful mosaic of diverse communities who all care about reading and education," said Jim Esposito, director of the New York Christian Resource Center, OBI's outreach center in New York. "Many kids in the inner city do not have the opportunity to expand their horizons through travel, culture or specialized training. Reading opens up a world of adventure, learning, escape, dreaming, creativity and spiritual interaction." Thanks to donations from major book publishing companies, about 10 tons of books valued at more than half a million dollars were distributed at the event.

Some Mainline Church Officials Condemned on Abortion Stance

The head of a church watchdog group has used this week's Roe v. Wade anniversary to condemn some mainline church officials for their increasing pro-abortion stance, AgapePress reports. Mark Tooley, director of UMAction at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, says the decision by some mainline church officials to step away from the traditions and teachings of the church to support unrestricted abortion on demand is "appalling." He notes that mainline church agencies belong to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which has opposed all proposed restrictions on abortion, including partial-birth abortion, and even parental notification. Tooley says as a result of such decisions, mainline church officials have ended up sounding more like Planned Parenthood or the National Organization of Women than like the "spiritual heirs of the apostles."

Southern Baptist Agency Mismanaged, Claims Former Director

A former director with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention says she witnessed numerous instances when contributions were misused and wasted during her time with the agency, AgapePress reports. Those allegations have been denied by the former president of the agency. Mary Kinney Branson served 16 years with the the NAMB. Much of Branson's just-released book -- Spending God's Money: Extravagance and Misuse in the Name of Ministry -- consists of allegations of financial mismanagement directed at former NAMB president Bob Reccord. Branson alleges, for example, that Dr. Reccord had a personal fund of one-million dollars that he could use at his discretion. For example, she says Reccord and his wife traveled to London to see the premier of the movie The Chronicles of Narnia -- "and those tickets were charged to NAMB." Branson claims Reccord's goal was to "get on CNN and get some publicity for books that he wrote." Dr. Reccord resigned as NAMB president shortly after an investigation by the agency's board of trustees. Still, 41 SBC officials, executives, and mega-church pastors released a letter commending Reccord for his service at the missionary sending agency. The decision to leave NAMB, Reccord says, was made to allow him to devote more time to family matters.