Methodist pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell has pled guilty to fraud in connection with a scheme to sell (what turned out to be worthless) bonds to elderly people. Caldwell’s partner in the business pled guilty last year while the minister maintained his innocence, contending all along that he thought the products he was selling were legitimate. His 18,000-member United Methodist Church—Windsor Village—has stood by him throughout the ordeal. Caldwell was independently wealthy prior to his entrance into the ministry, and his high-profile leadership in Houston included community leadership and friendships with presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He now faces prison time as well as professional discipline through the United Methodist Church.
In a dramatic week in American history, full of political, financial, medical, and cultural drama, leaders of religious communities took creative action to minister to their congregations, including innovative use of social media platforms. Many houses of worship cancelled public services, communion was limited or eliminated altogether, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints discontinued gatherings worldwide! Thousands of ministers took to YouTube, Facebook, and other modern media to lead prayer, read scripture, deliver sermons, and encourage people. President Donald J. Trump called for a Day of Prayer for Sunday, March 15. The pandemic is poised to interrupt the public celebrations of Passover (April 8), Easter (April 12), and Ramadan (April 23 and after).
Prominent social entrepreneur and pastor Eugene Cho has been selected as the new president of the influential Christian non-profit Bread for the World, based in Washington DC. A native of Seoul, Korea, educated at the University of California and Princeton Seminary, and ordained by the Evangelical Covenant Church, Cho launched the multi-ethnic, intergenerational church Quest in 2001. Later, he launched social non-profits Q Café, and One Day’s Wages. Cho succeeds Lutheran minister David Beckman, who has led the organization since 1991. “Bread for the World”, their web site states, “is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.”
The first of two deaths to report this week is Barbara C. Harris, the first female bishop in the Episcopal Church of American and the worldwide Anglican Communion. She was consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts in 1989. Standing only five feet tall, Harris was born in Philadelphia and spent much of her ministry as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement. She was 89 years old. The second is Vinson Synan, one of the first historians of Pentecostalism and a powerful advocate for the breadth and depth of the Pentecostal movement,who died on Sunday. He was 85. Synan was a professionally trained historian with a doctorate from the University of Georgia. He was the son of a Pentecostal pastor who himself became a Pentecostal pastor and eventually the assistant general superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC).
For the first time in 258 years, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was cancelled, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. At the same time, the movie “I Am Patrick” hit the theaters. The movie is a feature-length, docudrama that peels back centuries of legend and myth to tell the true story of Saint Patrick through historical re-enactments, expert interviews, and Patrick’s own writings. Some have celebrated the popular quasi-religious holiday by calling upon the man famous for ridding Ireland of snakes to use his mystical powers to rid the world of the virus.