Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Divorce Is The Biggest Threat To Heterosexual Marriage

Why people don't get this, I don't know. Christians all over the U.S. are up in arms about gay marriage while heterosexual marriages are crumbling right and left. Sadly, many of them are taking place between evangelical Christians. I cannot tell you how deeply disturbing I find this to be.

It was brought to my attention yesterday that approximately six active and well known couples from my former church have divorced since I left there a little better than a year ago. This church is pastored by a couple that has been married for 27 years and are very pro-marriage. Being very vocal against couples living together, against gay marriage and even against people remaining single late in life (the pastor feels such is abnormal, esp. for a male) and being a ministry very involved in the personal lives of its congregants, I find the news of these divorces to be rather surprising. I know it happens...but, six!?

(SIDENOTE: Mr. Free and I, needless to say, had our issues at this church as we were not a "State married" couple and we didn't allow them to push us into being so. I loved my church, though, and I loved the pastor and his wife, even if they bugged us relentlessly on the legal marriage issue, lol. While I was very active in the church, I was unable to lead any groups because I lacked a secular marriage contract. Yet, divorced and remarried people were allowed to do so, despite what the bible teaches on such being a sin. I've always found that to be a bit hypocritical, but whatever...)

With four high profile Christians in the news recently with major marital drama, I have to ask: where is the outrage? The protests? The proposed amendments to the Constitution? Okay, I'm going overboard, but I really do wonder when we are going to treat divorce as a sin and speak up? When will we recognize divorce as the MOST major threat to hetero marriages? In fact, it's not even a threat...it is the actual destroyer! And where is the accountability? As witnesses to and/or officiants over these marriages, when are we going to hold people accountable to their vows? To their covenants? I know we can't force people to remain married, but should we just sit by and silently watch their marriages go down in flames and accept this as a fact of life? And, on the whole legality of these marriages, why have anyone sign a contract if a breach of that contract holds no repercussion? What's the point?

And how do we tell our children that they should even get married, remain married and never divorce when they see divorces happening right there in church? I don't even want to add up the weddings I've taken my son to where the couples are now divorced. How do we expect young people to honor the institution when they see people make and break their vows to each other and to the Most High every day?

I don't have the answers, but the questions certainly frustrate me.

I'm ranting and I know I'm being judgmental, but I'm really, REALLY saddened that we spend so much time and energy fighting to keep marriage sacred, yet we treat it as anything but when we accept divorce as "just a part of life".

This is kinda like Christians fighting for the 10 Commandments to remain on display in public places, yet they don't even observe all 10 or even believe all 10 to be relevant. Ask a Christian when was the last time they observed the 4th Commandment and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. But, I guess that's a rant for another day.

None of it makes any sense to me.

*===== pushing my soapbox back in the corner now =====*

Okay, I'm done.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Randy And Paula White Divorcing

I seriously almost want to cry. Not that I'm a big Paula White fan, but it's just sad to hear so many people who profess to be true believers and who know the Word and know what the Word teaches regarding marriage, but cannot continue in their own marriages. That it comes on the heels of the whole Juanita Bynum/Bishop Weeks ordeal is like a double blow. Many times I've heard Paula White gush about her husband, Randy, and many times I've seen her discuss the topic of marriage and even counseling other couples. I know this must be devastating for both of them to now face this, but my prayers are with them. I'm not big on the whole prosperity gospel movement (of which Paula is a main character), but we're all human and this just hurts to see:

Without Walls Founders Divorcing
Tampa Bay Online
Updated: 8:59 p.m. PT Aug 23, 2007

TAMPA - Randy and Paula White, the founders and co-pastors of what has been one of the nation's biggest and fastest-growing churches, plan to divorce.

Members of Without Walls International Church reacted with tears and a chorus of "Oh, no's" after the Whites' announcement at Thursday night's service.

Randy called Paula to the podium about an hour into the service. He was somber; Paula appeared choked up.

"It's the most difficult decision I've ever had to make in my entire life," he told the congregation, describing Paula as an exceptional woman, mother and preacher.

She pledged to return frequently to preach.

Viewers who tuned in to a live webcast of the service missed the announcement; the video and audio were cut off for about 10 minutes.

The most shaken members left the service and went into the entryway to cry or call loved ones. Most said the news came as a shock, but it didn't shake their faith in the ministry.

"It's like hearing the news from your parents," said Frank Murillo, who has attended the church for 10 years. "They are great people. We all go through stuff. Pastor Randy will be here, and I will be here."

Kerran Fuller has attended the church on and off since the beginning of the year.

The announcement "didn't weaken the church in anyway," he said after the service. "I'll definitely keep going."

The Whites, who've been married nearly 18 years, said in interviews that the split is amicable and comes after visits to counselors over several years.

They blame two lives going in different directions.

Randy, however, said he takes "100 percent responsibility" for the breakup.

"I want to apologize for the poor decisions I've made in my life, to my congregation and to the body of Christ," he told The Tampa Tribune. "I think I've let a lot of people down."

Those regrets, he said, include how he has treated some people, lifestyle changes and being seen in public with women other than his wife, even if it was innocent.

He and Paula said the split involves no third party on either side.

Randy will stay at Without Walls as senior pastor while Paula concentrates on her ministry, which includes a TV show broadcast on several national networks including Black Entertainment Television, conferences, and book and video sales.

She'll remain based in Tampa, with satellite operations in California, New York City and San Antonio.

Church attendance "will take a hit" from the news, Randy predicted. Without Walls reports having 23,000 members.

Its finances also will be affected: Paula's ministry brings in about $50,000 to $80,000 a week, he said. An audit put total church revenues at nearly $40 million last year.

Individual Pursuits

Although Paula will continue to financially support the church, the Whites are in the process of separating operations.

The couple have pursued individual goals in recent months, rarely preaching together at the church on North Grady Avenue near Raymond James Stadium. They've also had to deal with the illness of Randy's grown daughter, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in December.

Paula, 41, is frequently on the road for her for-profit and nonprofit ventures. One of those, Paula White Enterprises, changed earlier this year when Randy's name was removed as a director, according to Department of State records. In February, she created a new nonprofit, PWM Lifecenter, listing as directors herself, church CFO Norva Carrington, and Rick Hawkins, founding pastor of the Family Praise Center in San Antonio, Texas.

She has made many speaking trips recently to San Antonio and this month purchased a $681,000 home there. She serves as "oversight pastor" to Hawkins' son Dustin, who now leads the church.

Paula also frequently travels to New York City, where she has a Trump Tower condo and leads monthly services at her new Life by Design Empowerment Center.

Randy, 49, has spent several months commuting to Malibu, Calif., where he signed a one-year lease on a beachfront dwelling. He had told his congregation he planned to start another church there, but now says those plans are on hold.

This is the second marriage each for the Whites, who came to Tampa after marrying in Maryland in March 1990. They have four grown children - three from his previous marriage, one from hers.

Without Walls church board member Alick Clarke of Acton, Calif., a longtime friend, said the impending divorce is sad news.

"They were like my heroes. I really love them," he said. "But I'm also a little pissed off. I didn't help them build their dream to have them throw it all away."

An Australian-born businessman, Clarke said he's given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the church since it was founded by the Whites in 1991 as the South Tampa Christian Center.

He partially blamed the couple's breakup on their devotion to preaching a prosperity message, exhorting followers to give more money to the church in order to be blessed with greater wealth.

"Too many ministries have become big business. That message is desecrating the church today," said Clarke, adding that he was disturbed to learn that with revenues at $40 million last year, the church was $22 million in debt.

"That's just not right."

Other questions about the Whites' financial dealings arose in stories published by the Tribune in May. Those included the couple's failure to repay a $170,000 loan from an elderly widow, money borrowed in 1995 as a down payment on a house. The couple sold the house in 2006, but still had not repaid the loan to Ruth McGinnis by May.

This week, McGinnis told the Tribune that "everything's been settled financially between Pastor Randy and me."

Also in May, The Tribune wrote about a young mother who said she never received the home she won in a widely publicized church contest in 2002.

On Aug. 15 she reported she and her four children had just moved into a new home purchased by the church.

Money Matters

The Whites have declined to say what the church pays them.

Michael Chitwood, whose financial services company devised their compensation package, said he recalled they have taken an annual salary as high as $1.5 million collectively, though most years it's closer to $600,000.

They were approved to take up to $3 million collectively, said the president of Chitwood & Chitwood of Tennessee.

Perhaps the most complex part of their divorce, being handled by Holland & Knight law firm, will be dividing up the assets, debts and business interests.

The couple's home on Bayshore Boulevard has an assessed value of $2.22 million. They have a land trust that includes two Tampa houses with assessed values of $144,800 and $257,835. The New York condo is valued at about $3.5 million.

Their multimillion-dollar ministry includes a private jet.

Randy White has said much of their wealth comes from more than 23 successful business ventures, including real estate and his role as a pitchman for Great HealthWorks' Omega XL fatty acid pills.

His main company, RAW Realty, is listed on his company Web site as being housed at 100 S. Ashley Drive, Suite 1180, in Tampa, but a law firm occupies that space. The state lists the company as being located at 2511 Grady Ave. in Tampa, which is the church address. The phone number on the Web site and listed with the state is disconnected. E-mails sent to the Web address were not returned.

White said this week the company is "very much active" in real estate, residential acquisitions and other ventures, but he's pared it down to himself and one assistant.

An 'Amazing' Start

Phil Cooke, a Los Angeles-based media strategist and consultant for religious and nonprofit organizations, said he remembers when the couple started their ministry.

"What they did in Tampa's inner city was amazing," he said. "They were creative, sharp, innovative. The track they started out on was terrific."

The church had dozens of ministries that worked with disadvantaged children, the homeless, people with substance abuse problems, single mothers and others on society's fringe.

It put on Easter services in venues such as the Sun Dome, where thousands were treated to giveaways and performances by stars such as Loretta Lynn, Lee Greenwood and Patti LaBelle. The high energy and good works attracted high-profile members including professional athletes and other local celebrities.

As the church gained members and revenue, the pastors changed. Paula built her international television ministry and became a life coach on "The Tyra Banks Show." Randy talked of performing nuptials for Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson in Michigan (they filed for divorce a month later). He boasted that he wasn't like "religious" people, posing in 2005 for a cover story in Makes and Models magazine, a publication devoted to exotic cars, motorcycles and scantily clad models. He has tattoos, collects guns and enjoys wine.

At a Sunday service in April, he introduced his former personal trainer - an attractive ex-porn star turned Christian - from the pulpit.

"We're cutting edge," he told the Tribune that month. "We do things a little bit differently than what a typical ministry would do."

This week, White promised changes are in store for the church and himself.

Without Walls will be less independent and more visible in the community, he said. He wants to team with other ministries in the city.

For personal growth, he now has three "accountability partners" who will help him concentrate on being a "good dad and great pastor."

"I've been preaching restoration for 15 years," he said. "Now it's time to live it."

Tim Storey, a Los Angeles-based minister and life coach, is a big believer in restoration; when he divorced, his ministry was scarred.

"You can rebound from it, but not everyone will go with you," said Storey, a frequent guest speaker at Without Walls. "The key is turning to God to turn the setbacks into comebacks."

Paula White said she knows followers will feel let down and disappointed by the announcement, given that evangelical Christians hold marriage as a sacred institution and a cornerstone of a godly life.

"I wish there was a magic formula that gave you guarantees in life," she said. "Now I have to draw deep into my faith and let God draw me out of this dark place."

Doreen Fawkes, a former business administrator at Without Walls, said she hates to see any marriage end, but she's not surprised by the announcement.

"They grew at an unbelievable speed. It became less about God and more about self-promotion," she said, but the congregation needs to understand it's not just about the Whites.

"The people are the church," she said. "And the presence of God is the glue that holds them together. I pray the people will see that and carry on."

Share your comments on Without Walls at tbo.com, Keyword: Church. Michelle Bearden can be reached at (813) 259-7613 or at mbearden @tampatrib.com. Baird Helgeson can be reached at (813) 259-7668 or at bhelgeson@tampatrib.com.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20418259/

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Juanita Bynum Allegedly Beaten By Husband Bishop Weeks

This makes absolutely no sense to me. Please pray for this couple:

Well Known TV Minister Told Police Husband Savagely Beat Her

ATLANTA (FOX 5) -- Atlanta police said Wednesday that well known television minister, Juanita Bynum, became the victim of domestic abuse after her husband savagely beat her in a hotel parking lot Tuesday night.

A relative of Reverend Bynum told Fox Five News that the Reverend Bynum and her husband, Bishop Thomas Weeks, are in the middle of a separation.

The relative said the two agreed to meet Tuesday night in the dining room of the Renaissance Hotel near Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

The meeting reportedly did not go well and ended with Bishop Weeks leaving abruptly. The relative said Reverend Bynum followed him to the parking lot where the two exchanged words.

According to an Atlanta Police Department report, that's when things got ugly. In a statement to police, Reverend Bynum said her husband, Thomas Weeks, "choked her, pushed her down, kicked her and stomped her in the Renaissance parking lot."

Ronald Campbell of the APD said a bellhop at the hotel saw the attack, intervened and stopped it.

Officer Campbell said Reverend Bynum suffered multiple bruises and swelling and required hospitalization.

Reverend Bynum is being kept at an undisclosed location.

Police are searching for Thomas Weeks.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Christian Club

I love Messiah. I know that He is the only begotten Son of Elohim and that He paid the penalty of death by crucifixion for my sins. I believe that He is coming again to sit in judgment of the world and that He is, as we speak, preparing a place for us who have repented of our sins, declared Him as our Savior and seek to follow Him in all of Elohim's truth. I believe in the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I have also experienced the awesome power of the Holy Spirit and have spoken in tongues. I know Him to be 100% real.


There are some who would say that I'm not a "real" Christian. They will pointedly rebuke me because I keep the Sabbath, because I use the original Hebrew names of the Messiah and His Father Yahweh instead of using the names/titles Jesus, God or Lord. They will rebuke me because I refuse to partake of secular marriage and because I live together with Mr. Free as husband and wife. They will even seek to strip me of the Christian title because I am not a Republican. Don't laugh, I'm dead serious. To many of them I am anything but a Christian.

Frankly, I can live with this.

I'm not perfect, I don't have all of the answers and, even of the answers I think that I have, I may one day discover that I have been in serious error. But at the same time, those who would rebuke me and those who have called me names, I'm not too deeply impressed with either. They call themselves Christians, yet they would rather defend man-made traditions than observe His holy days. They would rather follow the ordinances of man than follow the Laws given to us by the Creator. They would rather worship religion and churches and reputation than worship Him in Truth.

Christians do a lot of good in the world. If you'll notice, at least here in the U.S., whenever a morality bell is rung, it's done so by Christians. Whenever a battle is fought in the name of Yahweh, it is done so by Christians. When was the last time you saw a group of Jews protesting abortion? Or the last time Muslim groups took a public stance on gay marriage? I'm not saying that these groups don't care about these issues or that they're not lending efforts to moral causes, but when it comes to large scale moral protests, it's almost always a group of Christians on the front lines. I'm also not saying that the Christians who take up these causes are always right in their approach or that they're even addressing all of the issues important to morality in this country (personally, I believe secular marriage and divorce should be addressed as fiercely as the aforementioned too). No, I'm not saying they're always perfect or right...just that they are vocal and, in general, collectively, they do seek to do a lot of good all over the planet.

But, let's face reality. Christians can be some of the meanest, un-Christlike people you will ever meet. I used to not believe this to be true. I used to believe that people who said this were just looking for a reason to trash their salvation, avoid church and put the blame on someone else. I simply couldn't see. Now, don't get me wrong, most of the Christians that I know up close and personally are very loving, kind people...but they're my friends and family, so of course I see their attributes in a different light, lol. Still, there are some that I've met casually or those that I've watched interact with others or even those that I've had contact with online that leave me speechless in the presence of their rude, judgmental ways. Especially online. It's amazing the things that people will say to one another, supposedly in the name of Yahweh, when they are disguised as a screen name behind an anonymous computer monitor.

So, while they tell me that I'm not a Christian because I don't act according to vain traditions, I smile and hold my head up anyway. With the poor ways in which some of them have behaved in the name of Christianity, I'm not all too comfortable with identifying myself by that title anyway. Even before I got on my marriage rants and even before I learned the Sacred Names, I'd begun to feel embarrassed by Christianity (not Christ, but by some Christians...please note the difference!). I began to distance myself from the title, even silently, a long time before all of this. The label, I feared, brought about a certain stereotype that I wasn't at all comfortable with and that I didn't think was becoming to Christ. Besides, I'd rather live in His Way, than to have to verbally offer a label in order for people to know who I am. Now, some do still call me Christian and that's cool too. I'm not angry at someone else applying the label to me even though I'm not prone to do so myself. I'm not so tied to the title that it matters to me one way or the other. Truly, it doesn't matter what anyone calls me. All that matters is WHO has called me and to WHAT He has called me to.

Bottom line: I am redeemed. Now what you choose to call me beyond this is on you. I know who I am and Whose I am. And no religion, no church, no title, no mortal man can ever take that from me.

My sincere hope is that everyone heeds His call...a call that extends far beyond the title.

Stay In Him,


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Are You Keeping The Law?

Based upon the Apostle Paul's writings, do you believe that the Old Testament Law no longer applies to you?

Do you believe that Yahushua (Jesus) nailed the Law to the cross and, therefore, you don't have to keep the Sabbath holy?

Do you believe that the New Testament is all that you need to know or study?

Do you believe that those who keep the Law are, in fact, legalists?

If you answered yes to any of these, please click HERE and listen to the 7/14/07 audio presentation titled "Was Paul Anti-Law?"

In Him,