An Episcopal seminary in northern Virginia has created an endowment intended to function as a reparations fund in response to the role that slaves played in the construction of the buildings on the campus of the school. At least three buildings have been identified as built by slaves; and from the founding of the school in 1823 to 1951, persons of color where not allowed to enroll at the school. “This is the Seminary recognizing that along with repentance for past sins”, said school president Ian S. Markham, “there is also a need for action.” It has not yet been determined how the endowment will be spent. This institutional action follows on the heels of a student-led reparations movement at Georgetown University, also in the greater Washington DC area, and an in-house report at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, both dealing with the slave history of the respective schools.
Jarrid Wilson, the 30-year-old associate pastor of California megachurch Harvest Christian Fellowship, died this week by suicide. Wilson had spoken often about his depression and had been a very public advocate of the need for people to attend to their mental health. He was co-founder with his wife of a mental health nonprofit called Anthem of Hope. His pastor, the famous and influential Greg Laurie, wrote in response: “Sometimes people may think that as pastors and spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people.” The day of his death was national Suicide Awareness Day, September 8. Wilson is survived by his wife and two sons.
Benny Hinn, one of the most famous and successful prosperity and healing evangelists in the world, has publicly criticized the Prosperity Gospel that has undergirded his ministry for 40 years. Hinn was born in 1952 in Israel but moved to Toronto where he converted, as a teenager, from Eastern Orthodoxy to Pentecostalism. Influenced by Katheryn Kuhlman of Pittsburgh, Hinn launched his preaching, healing, and broadcasting career from Orlando, Florida, in 1983. His ministry, now centered in southern California, has been characterized by large healing services during which he taught that salvation and prosperity were related to the tithes and offerings the people contributed to his ministry. Over the last months and year, Hinn has spoken out against this Prosperity Gospel but it remains to be seen whether, like Zacchaeus, his change of mind is accompanied by restitution of his ill-gotten gains.
Southern Baptists celebrated “Baptism Sunday” this week, a new named feature on the denominational calendar intended to address the declining numbers of persons being baptized throughout the denomination. Reported baptisms among Southern Baptists have declined in eight of the last 10 years and dropped by more than 100,000 since 2009, according to data collected from the churches by the denomination. Last year, the annual church profile counted 246,442 baptisms, the lowest reported number since 1950. That compares to 349,737 in 2009. The highest-ever reported number of baptisms was 445,725 in 1972. No word yet on how successful “Baptism Sunday” was for the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.
Oak Hill WV
Melinda Frye Toney pulled out a pistol during a raucous dispute with another woman in the parking lot of the new Life Apostolic Church in Oak Hill, West Virginia, an hour drive southeast of Charleston. Both Melinda and the other woman, Lori Haywood, are married to ministers at the church, to the pastor and the youth minister, respectively. The gun accidentally discharged as pastor Earl Toney tried to seize the gun from the hand of his wife. She had retrieved the gun from her car during a conversation designed to resolve lingering issues between the two women. Melinda Toney does have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but the local sheriff suggested in the aftermath of the episode that it should be revoked.