Tag Archives: Pentecostalism

Preachers of L.A. (article in the “Telegraph”)

By Philip Sherwell, New York9:00PM BST 26 Oct 2013
They live in opulent mansions, enjoy the company of beautiful women, drive flashy sports cars, proudly sport their clunky gold jewellery and heavy tattoos and revel in their celebrity status.
They also happen to be the pastors of six evangelical Californian so-called ‘mega-churches’ who deliver their charismatic messages to tens of thousands from the pulpit each Sunday.
And they are now the stars of Preachers of LA, a new hit reality television show chronicling the lavish lifestyles, emotional dust-ups, entrepreneurial flair and of course spiritual zeal of these men of the designer cloth and their wives and admirers.
Among their ranks are a one-time Los Angeles gang member, a former professional skateboarder and drug addict, the brother of Grace Jones and a chart-topping contemporary gospel music singer.
What unites them is an interpretation of Christianity that is dramatically at odds with the “church of the poor” frugality espoused by Pope Francis since arriving in Rome.

Just last week, the Pontiff suspended the so-called “bishop of bling” Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from his German diocese of Limburg after he racked up a 30 million euro bill for new church headquarters.

The bishop would encounter no criticism of such apparently conspicuous consumption from these celebrity ministers who champion the gospel of “prosperity theology”.
This doctrine, an offshoot of Pentecostalism and one of the fastest-growing in the US, holds that financial wealth and physical health are the blessings of God, a material reward in this life for a faith that alleviates the curses of poverty and sickness.
So it is that Bishop Ron Gibson, who joined the Crips street gang at 16 but now ministers to 4,500 people each week at Life Church of God in Christ, is shown cruising the streets of Los Angeles in his red Cadillac, one of his fleet of luxury vehicles.
“P Diddy and Jay-Z – they’re not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses,” he says to the camera as he compares himself to secular celebrities. To whoops from his congregation, he notes: “You see my bling, you see my Bentley, you see my glory but you don’t see my story.”
For Noel Jones, the brother of Grace who has a spa session before delivering his Sunday sermon to a 15,000-strong congregation and lives in a hilltop Malibu mansion with sweeping Pacific views, life as a unmarried rock star of the evangelical movement brings other attractions.
“Of course, women throw themselves at you in this business,” he notes. “When you get to be my age, then you think ‘why can’t you have some fun’.”
And viewers follow the personal and religious struggle to emerge from scandal of Deitrick Haddon, who started preaching at 11 and is a also a famous gospel singer. He is now forging a new life with Dominique, the attractive second wife with whom he had a child out of wedlock while divorcing his spouse of 15 years.
It is hardly surprising the show has been prompted controversy and condemnation, even from others within the prosperity theology movement, such as Bishop TD Jakes, senior pastor at a Dallas mega-church, so-called because they attract more than 2,000 worshippers to a service.
“Now, I know you been watching that junk on TV,” he told his congregation recently. “I want to tell you right now, not one dime of what you’re sowing right now will buy my suit. I want you to know my car is paid for. I want you to know I got my house on my own.
“I want you to know I’m not bling-blinging….I don’t need your offering to pay for this little slimy suit. So I rebuke that spirit in the name of Jesus Christ.”
The show has, unsurprisingly, been denounced by prominent figures in the African-American church – five of the six preachers are black – for the example set by its participants. “If you watch on mute, you can’t tell if these are preachers or rap stars,” lamented Jacob Samuels, who leads an Orlando church.
At Harlem’s New Horizon Church. Michael Faulkner was just as scathing.
“These guys are so off the wall they give the church a bad name, they give preachers a bad name, they give TV a bad name,” he said.
But the stars of Preachers of LA are unapologetic. Mr Haddon said that he was “humbled to be able to be a part of such a groundbreaking, history-making product”, referring to the series’ popularity, and that God had told him he should take part in a reality show about preachers.
“Never before have you ever seen the name of Jesus on a reality show like this proclaimed throughout the entire show,” he told The Christian Post.
“The men on this show, are men of integrity, established men who have been working hard down through the years, and they should have something to show for it. When you work hard, especially working for the kingdom of God, sacrificing your life for the kingdom, He rewards those that are diligent about what they do for Him.”
He said that the programme would win souls in an unorthodox way, a message echoed by Jay Haizlip, the former professional skateboarder-turned-pastor.
“They’re not going to come listen to a preacher, they’re not gonna turn on Christian television,” he said. “This is not a preaching TV show. This is a show where millions of people will get to watch us do life, and what it’s really like to live in our shoes.”
Indeed, the cameras follow Mr Haizlip as he returns to the crack-cocaine dens he once frequented as a drug user to minister to addicts and Mr Gibson as he drives into the hard-knock district of Compton to encourage “gang-bangers” to follow his path away from street crime.
But this new breed of preacher is as at home in the language of the entrepreneur as the minister, referring to their “brands” and income streams, describing off-shoot churches as franchises and terming themselves as chief executives.
It is from the for-profit arms of their operations that they fund their lifestyles — and according to the tenets of prosperity theology, set an example for others.
“The prosperity gospel is one of the most popular theologies of modern Christianity in American,” Kate Bowler, a professor at Duke Divinity School who has written a book about the doctrine, told The Sunday Telegraph. “It is about faith, health, wealth and victory in this life, with an emphasis on the wallet and the body as in part of the contract with God.
“Even many believers in the prosperity gospel will hate The Preachers of LA as it seems to distill certain excesses, but others will love it because of their belief that the high life might actually be divine.”

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HIV patients and Pentecostal Pastors. (BBC News article)

16 August 2013

HIV patients told by Pentecostal pastors ‘to rely on God’

By Alex Strangwayes-Booth BBC News

A crucifix necklace lying on an open Bible


Some young HIV patients are giving up their medicine after being told by Pentecostal Church pastors to rely on faith in God instead, doctors warn.

Medical staff told the BBC a minority of pastors in England were endangering young church members by putting them under pressure to stop medication.

Healing is central to Pentecostalism, a radical belief in the power of prayer and miracles.

But one pastor denied people would ever be told to stop taking their medicine.

The Children’s HIV Association surveyed 19 doctors and health professionals working with babies and children in England; its members had reported hearing anecdotal evidence of HIV patients deciding to stop taking their anti-retroviral drugs because their pastors had told them to do so.

Among 10 doctors who said they had encountered the problem in the last five years, 29 of their patients had reported being put under pressure to stop taking medicine and at least 11 had done so.

The doctors and health professionals reported a variety of cases:

  • Some said they had dealt with parents who felt under pressure to stop giving their young children their HIV medicine – and some had actually done so
  • Others were breastfeeding mothers with HIV who refused the medicine that would stop the virus being passed onto their babies
  • Some were young people, making the decision for themselves

The healthcare workers also reported that some patients had been told by their pastors they would be healed by prayer or by drinking blessed water.

‘Miracle cure’

Sixteen-year-old Oliver (not his real name) said he was told by a pastor to swap his HIV medicine for a plastic bottle containing water that would heal him.

He said many others had come under the same pressure.

“I’ve been to other churches where… the pastor stands forth there, and he says ‘come take this water… if you drink it for this certain amount of days, you are going to be healed’,” he said.

Later, after his mother had experienced what he believed was a miracle cure, Oliver stopped taking his medication, and his condition quickly deteriorated.

He has since gone back on his medication and said he believed he needed to combine his drugs with his belief in faith healing.


“We need to stay engaged with the families and understand that… their faith is an important part of the support they get in their condition”

Steve WelchChildren’s HIV Association

Dr Toni Tan, a consultant paediatrician, said some Pentecostal pastors were endangering the lives of sick followers.

“It’s my view that it’s very wrong for faith leaders to actively encourage their congregations to stop taking their medication… it will lead to their deaths.”

Pentecostals and other Christians see healing, like speaking in tongues, as a sign of the presence of God.

Pentecostal pastor Stevo Atanasio, from the East London Christian Church, said that among his congregation, blind people had recovered sight, deaf people had heard again, and what were considered terminal illnesses had been cured.

“We don’t say to people ‘don’t take your medication don’t go to the doctor’. I mean we never say that,” he said.

“But we believe that the first healing comes from inside, it’s a spiritual healing. Some people are hurt, they have broken hearts. If you are healed from inside, then you are healed from outside as well.”

‘Avoid culture clash’

Pentecostalism is booming. The number of Pentecostal churches in London, for example, has doubled since 2005.

The overall number of incidents of HIV patients being told to give up medicine is thought to consist of a minority of churches and a small group of people.

But the Rev Israel Olofinjana, who is a former Pentecostal pastor and now a Baptist minister, said he had seen it happening.

“I’ve heard languages like that – ‘put your trust in God, don’t put your trust in medicine’.”

He said many of these churches served migrants with an exalted view of the authority of pastors.

“Within the context of African churches, if you’re coming from a culture where the pastor is like your fathers or mothers, like your community keepers, the word of your pastor becomes very important,” he explained.

“It becomes very significant… there is a minority who say ‘because God can heal absolutely… what’s the need for medicine?’.”

Dr Steve Welch, who is chairman of the Children’s HIV Association, said it found it difficult to engage with the faith leaders of churches where healing was an integral part of the worship.

“We need to stay engaged with the families and understand that… their faith is an important part of the support they get in their condition, and engage positively with them and not make it a clash of cultures.

“I think it’s about engaging with the pastors and faith leaders who are giving this advice because that’s how we will actually address the root of the problem.”



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Evangelicals In Brazil Rise In Power With Consequences For Catholics, Gays

(Reuters) – When televangelist Silas Malafaia gathered 40,000 followers outside Brazil’s Congress this week, it wasn’t just to raise their arms to the sky and praise the Lord.

The rally was a show of support for lawmakers who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage and a message to other politicians that they should not ignore Brazil’s fast-growing evangelical churches if they want to stay in office.

“Gay activism is moral garbage,” Malafaia roared into the microphone to a cheering crowd on the grassy esplanade of the Brazilian capital. “Satan will not destroy our family values.”

The rise of evangelical Christians as a conservative political force in Latin America’s largest nation has put the ruling Workers’ Party on guard and led President Dilma Rousseff – who is seeking re-election in 2014 – to appoint an evangelical bishop to her cabinet.

The growing clout of evangelical churches is also bringing social and moral issues such as abortion to the center of the national agenda, some say at the expense of political and economic reforms needed to restore robust growth to the world’s seventh-largest economy.

Pentecostalism was introduced to Latin America by U.S. missionaries a century ago and has gained masses of followers in recent decades in countries like Brazil, especially among the urban poor who feel neglected by the dominant Catholic Church.

With their vibrant preaching, emotional prayer and singing, evangelical Protestant churches appeal to Brazilians more than the liturgical masses of the Catholic Church. They also use electronic and social media more effectively to proselytize.


Many Brazilians who join evangelical congregations say their new religion has brought meaning to their lives, that they no longer identified with the Catholic Church.

Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic nation and Pope Francis will travel to Rio de Janeiro next month on his first trip abroad as pontiff, in part to try to reverse the exodus away from Catholicism.

The Catholic Church is losing followers across Latin America – even among Hispanics in the United States – and opinion polls in Brazil point to the Church’s strict positions on sex and divorce as contributing factors.

A Datafolha survey in March found 58 percent of Brazilians believe the Catholic Church should accept divorce and 83 percent believe the use of condoms should be allowed, two issues where the Vatican has refused to budge and evangelical churches are more flexible, allowing followers to decide for themselves.

One in four Brazilians is an evangelical Christian today and their churches have multiplied and become wealthy institutions that own radio and television networks, finance political campaigns and even fund their own political parties.

While Catholic priests are banned from running for public office, evangelical churches actively encourage their pastors to engage in politics and often use the pulpit to persuade their followers who they should vote for.

“Today there are 44 million mainly Pentecostal evangelicals in Brazil, which is a large social force. Obviously, this was going to change things in Congress,” said Fernando Altemeyer, a former Catholic priest who teaches theology at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo.

In the last national election in 2010, evangelicals increased their presence in Congress by 50 percent and now have 68 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and three in the Senate. Though belonging to a dozen different parties, evangelicals have begun to act as a caucus in Brazil’s fragmented legislature where only the farm lobby tends to speak with one voice.


The evangelical presence in Congress has been very much in the public spotlight since one of its members, a conservative preacher known for his racist and anti-gay statements, was named chairman of the chamber’s Human Rights and Minorities Committee.

Pastor Marcos Feliciano, of the Social Christian Party, once stated that John Lennon’s murder was divine retribution for saying the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ.

The committee’s sessions have been disrupted almost daily by demonstrators demanding Feliciano’s ouster. He has ordered guards to remove the protesters and closed the committee to the public. Congressmen from Rousseff’s Workers’ Party walked out, saying he was unfit to be chairman.

His backers say the longer the controversy lasts, the more votes evangelical candidates will get in the next election because he is defending traditional family values.

“He got 200,000 votes in the last election. Well, he won’t get less than 500,000 next time,” Malafaia said in an interview before his rally in Brasilia on Wednesday. “He’s on a roll.”

“The Workers’ Party is going to suffer in the next election because of the evangelical vote,” Malafaia predicted.

Rousseff has every reason to worry. In 2010, evangelical voters helped force the election to a runoff after abortion became a big issue late in the campaign and many votes went to her Green Party rival, Marina Silva, an evangelical Christian.

Last year, Rousseff named evangelical bishop Marcelo Crivella as her fisheries minister, even though he admitted publicly he knew little about fishing. Crivella is nephew of Edir Macedo, founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Bishop Macedo, a billionaire who owns the TV Record network, has 5 million followers and is a hugely influential power broker in Brazil.

“Rousseff is not going to do anything that would alienate the evangelicals,” said David Fleischer, political science professor at the University of Brasilia. “No candidate in their right mind would do that.”

(Editing by Kieran Murray and Eric Walsh)

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June 10, 2013 · 17:37