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NYC Pastors Repay $1.2 Million Diverted from 9/11, Hurricane Katrina Donations

Husband and wife agree to reimburse church after using funds 'as their personal bank.'

[Update: A Journey Through NYC Religions offers more context on Keyes and his church, including its significance in the Pentecostal movement and its efforts at racial reconciliation.]

Pastors Carl and Donna Keyes have agreed to repay their New York City church $1.2 million after an ongoing Associated Press investigation found they had spent funds raised for 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina victims instead upon themselves.

The husband and wife settled an attorney general probe Wednesday, the Associated Press reported today.

CT previously explored how Glad Tidings Tabernacle, an Assemblies of God church that "started Pentecostalism in New York in 1907" (according to A Journey Through NYC Religions), became instrumental in relief work directly following 9/11 as thousands of dollars and hundreds of volunteers poured into the church located just 2.5 miles from Ground Zero.

Now, on the same day that President Obama dedicated the 9/11 Memorial Museum, news broke that Keyes and his wife have agreed to pay back money given to their charities—including Urban Life Ministries and Aid for the World—that they had used to build a farmhouse in New Jersey among other personal expenses.

"Carl and Donna Keyes and [former Glad Tidings executive director] Mark Costantin abused the trust of their congregants and used Glad Tidings Tabernacle as their personal bank," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In New York, it is illegal for heads of nonprofits or religious organizations to take loans from their organizations.

The agreement prohibits Carl and Donna Keyes and Costantin from holding any leadership positions at New York nonprofits or religious corporations, but does allow Donna Keyes to continue ...

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Thu, 15 May 2014 15:50:00 PDT
Ray Rices Domestic Abuse Saga: Why Not Leave Him?

Questioning the victim takes focus away from the real problem: the abuse.

Football fans turned their attention to the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens on Monday, after TMZ released a video of Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in a casino elevator. The league ultimately suspended him indefinitely, and the team terminated his contract.

After the incident back in February, Rice was charged with assault, and video from outside the elevator showed him dragging her unconscious body. Without the hard evidence of his attack, though, he had initially only been suspended two games.

This high-profile case provides an opportunity for us to consider our response to domestic violence, which can often seem too little, too late.

Ray Rice’s now-wife Janay Palmer Rice, who did not press charges, says her husband’s punishment and the media attention over the case feels like a horrible nightmare. She hates having “to relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day.”

Like many survivors of domestic abuse, deep down, she may be asking, “Is it my fault?” Most assume they did something to spur their abusers on, that they were too passive or too demanding, or that they are somehow to blame for the abuse.

Yet, research on domestic violence reveals that a woman’s behavior actually has no bearing on the abuse. Psychologists Neil Jacobson and John Gottman say it plainly: “There was nothing battered women could do to stop the abuse except get out of the relationship.”

Unfortunately, victims not only blame themselves, but are also blamed by the perpetrator and society. Social psychology researchers have found that we hold prejudices against domestic violence victims. These negative stereotypes make victims feel socially derogated, ...

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Thu, 15 May 2014 15:50:00 PDT
Ex-Muslim Sues His Church for Celebrating His Baptism

Oklahoma man claims he was tortured, nearly beheaded in Syria because of Presbyterian churchs online announcement.

A Muslim convert to Christianity has sued his Oklahoma church and its pastor for negligence after the church announced his baptism online. He alleges that the announcement caused disastrous consequences on his trip back home to Syria, where he was tortured and almost executed by Muslim extremists.

The convert seeks $75,000 or more in punitive damages to discourage other churches from announcing the Christian conversions of other former Muslims.

Lawsuits only tell one side of the story. But according to the June 9 filing, the man was privately baptized in December 2012, a few weeks before making a regular trip to Damascus. He had repeatedly asked for the baptism to be done privately for his safety, and he alleges that he secured a promise from First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa to keep the baptism private. But a few days after arriving in Syria, the Oklahoma church allegedly published an announcement on its website that he had been baptized.

Soon after the news of his baptism went online, the convert alleges that he was beaten by Muslim extremists in Damascus, who told him they had read about his baptism on the internet. Even after denying his conversion, the man was held captive and tortured for days before he managed to escape and return to the United States.

The lawsuit claims that a murder sentence exists against the convert in Syria, where his son still lives and his business and possessions are now forfeit. The convert, who has permanent resident status but is not yet a U.S. citizen, is asking for $75,000 in retribution from the church that allegedly inadvertently prompted his persecution.

"The Defendants were either grossly negligent or deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's safety by publicizing ...

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Thu, 15 May 2014 15:50:00 PDT
The Heart of the Gendercide Problem

What the church can do to address the issues underlying global violence against women.

Violence against women and girls is a human rights problem that extends across the globe, and includes widespread rape as a tool of war, gender-selective abortions, female genital mutilation, sexual trafficking, disfigurement, and economic exploitation. In the United States one out of four women has experienced domestic violence and one out of six has experienced attempted or completed rape.

Some churches have increasingly recognized violence against women and children as a moral problem, and they have worked to raise awareness and funds to aid women around the globe. Aiding individual victims by providing referrals to shelters, access to financial resources, and raising awareness of the problem (particularly in October, domestic violence month), are a few initiatives offered by churches that are helpful, and they can make a difference for families.

Yet, there is potential for the church to have a far greater impact on the enormity of violence targeted at women and girls—what is most accurately termed gendercide—than these individual programs. Like Ruth Moon wrote previously for Her.meneutics, this issue is not another charity case, but one that has the potential to shift the orientation and framework of the church at large.

The violence we see around the world and in our own communities is ultimately rooted in misogyny, patriarchy, and the misuse of power. The church has growing ministries to respond to the resulting violence, but our most significant work will come when we address these underlying issues.

To do so, we start with the gospel and the theological orientation of the cross. As I write in The Cross and Gendercide:

The power of the cross crushes the idolatry of power that leads to the ...

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Thu, 15 May 2014 15:50:00 PDT
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