Jan 3, 2021

CultNEWS101 Articles: 1/2/2020

Recovery Workshop, Gregg Schoof, Rwanda, Uganda, Legal, Mount Gerizim Baptist Ministries, Hillsong, Sexual Abuse, Televangelists, Child Marriage, Israel, Legal

To New and Returning Participants,

If you would like to attend Saturday,  1/9, 12:00 Noon – 2:00 Pacific Time, please send in your payment of $50 for one session or $150 for three sessions to reserve your place.  I keep the total participants to about 10 each time to allow for your exploration of relevant issues in your lives. Some of you have already paid but if you could please confirm your attendance, I'd appreciate it.   Janja and I look forward to seeing you on the 9th !

Colleen Russell, LMFT, CGP
"Gregg Schoof claimed the Rwandan government had "taken a stand against God with its heathen practices" before being arrested last year.

Gregg Schoof, the controversial evangelical pastor deported from Rwanda last year, is now living and working in Uganda. 

In a "prayer letter" published today on Fundamental Baptist Missions International, Schoof wrote that his family plans to start new radio stations and local churches in Uganda, and has recently found funding for their work. "In Rwanda, we were entirely by ourselves, but in Uganda, there are several good churches that we can work with," wrote Schoof, who launched the NGO Mount Gerizim Baptist Ministries in Uganda this summer. "From the radio station we had in Rwanda, I still have a love for the radio ministry … I am looking at seven different cities where we could start radio stations with local pastors. We also have an open door to start three stations in Burundi." He then requested funding for radio equipment for four different stations, where each setup, he said, "costs about $15,000."

In Rwanda, Schoof's radio station, The Amazing Grace Christian Radio, was shut down in 2018 after one of the station's presenters, Nicolas Niyibikora, referred to women as "evil" during multiple broadcasts. This prompted the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority to revoke the radio station's license. 

Schoof, a missionary, also had his Baptist church shut down for not complying with city regulations regarding noise pollution and building safety standards. (This closure was not specific to Schoof, and was one of many in Rwanda at the time.) During his 16 years in Rwanda, Schoof frequently critiqued the government for teaching evolution and allowing access to family planning services like condoms and abortion. (Schoof has also continued to struggle with science: At a livestreamed September event in the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Ohio, Schoof told attendees and viewers that believed he had the coronavirus in 2019, and said he "took God's medicines … good old fashioned exciting raw garlic." There is no scientific evidence that eating raw garlic will cure COVID-19.)

After his radio station was closed in Rwanda, Schoof tried to host a news conference in 2019 to discuss his situation. The conference did not occur, as he didn't have government approval. "I did not come here to fight the government," he said in a written statement. "But this government has taken a stand against God with its heathen practices." Schoof was then arrested for, according to Reuters, "disturbing public order," before he was deported. 

Uganda, where Schoof and his family have lived since November 2019, has its own contentious history with evangelical missionaries from the United States, many of whom have been linked to promoting anti-LGBTQ legislation and exporting homophobia. In his letter today, Schoof said, "Truly, God has given us a wide open door in Uganda. Thank you again for your interest in our ministry and for your prayers and support."

"Last month, news broke that Carl Lentz, one-time "spiritual confidant" to celebrities including Justin Bieber and head pastor at Hillsong megachurch, was "released" from his job due to unspecified "moral failures." Soon afterward, it was revealed that Lentz cheated on his wife, having had an affair with Brooklyn-based fashion designer Ranin Karim (and potentially, many others). As of last week, it appeared like his redemption arc was beginning to unfold, having reportedly entered treatment for anxiety, depression, and "pastoral burnout." Except, of course, new information about a seedy, "sexual inappropriate" culture at Hillsong has begun to emerge, and I just don't get how a "religious man" gets out of this one!

According to Page Six, back in 2018, whistleblowers within the Hillsong organization sent a letter to church leaders citing "verified, widely circulated stories of inappropriate sexual behavior amongst staff/interns," allegedly labeling Hillsong "...dangerous and a breeding ground for unchecked abuse."

Apparently, one high-ranking church leader was instructed to leave after the letter exposed he had "multiple inappropriate sexual relationships with several female leaders and volunteers and was verbally, emotionally, and according to one woman, physically abusive in his relationships with these women." Another high-ranking male church leader was accused of "not respecting physical and sexual boundaries within dating relationships with female church volunteers."

The letter also stated that church volunteers face "harsh words, belittlement, name-calling from certain pastors and staff," and one pastor in particular was guilty of "losing his temper, bullying, yelling and outright screaming at other volunteers and leaders... that's just how they are—it's their personality/culture."

How very Christian of them! The time for a reckoning is nigh."

"With every verse and refrain, Bryan Dougan's voice becomes more urgent. "We are so weary of this coronavirus and so hungry for the physical community of the Holy Family. Feed our desperate hungers with your divine mercy and grace. Bread of the world, hear our prayer." Despite the intention in his timbre, his prayers echo hollowly in the cavernous nave; its pews sit empty. A member of Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Dougan is one of the congregants who helps create Sunday's weekly video service, a necessity of the pandemic given the dangers of mass gatherings.

"We're basically producing a TV show," observes Reverend Clarke French, who says the process has been the steepest learning curve of his twenty years in the clergy. "I had to learn five new software platforms since the pandemic started."

In March, two days after the state reported its first COVID-19 death, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive stay-at-home order that banned gatherings of more than ten people — essentially outlawing in-person religious services. A May order that moved the state to 'Phase One' of the reopening process relaxed general restrictions by allowing retail stores to resume business at 50% capacity, but permitted religious institutions to exceed the ten-person gathering limit only if their services were held outdoors. That decision provoked a lawsuit from a coalition of religious conservatives who argued that churches were being unfairly targeted, an infringement on the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion."
"Parents of girl who was set to marry 24-year-old man arrested, daughter transferred to custody of welfare authorities; mother insists child was mature enough

Police prevented a Haredi wedding of a 14-year-old girl to a 24-year-old man in Jerusalem, at the last minute.

The ceremony had been slated to take place last week, Channel 12 said Thursday, reporting that police were tipped off shortly beforehand and arrested the girl's parents.

They have since been released to house arrest, but the child has been placed in the custody of welfare services.

In a recorded phone conversation with Channel 12, the girl's mother insisted that she was not aware Israeli law bars marriages of children under the age of 18, and insisted there was nothing wrong with the arrangement.

"I didn't know this was like a person stealing or murdering or that it is something that harms anyone," the woman claimed. "I know a lot of girls who get married at the age of 15. It happens a lot [in our community]. There are a lot of girls who are ready for it."

She lamented that relationships between teenagers in the "secular world" are deemed legitimate, while the marriage of children in Haredi communities are not. The mother went on to demand that authorities return her daughter home."

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