Dark Christianity
dark_christian
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May 2008
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Possible mass walking-away at New Life Church?

Many of you are familiar with New Life Church in Colorado Springs--the dominionist congregation that has been closely connected with the televangelist industry (via the National Religious Broadcasters), the promotion of "Joel's Army" theology (as described in Harper's "Soldiers of Christ" article), the US Air Force Academy prosyletisation and religious coercion scandals--and, most recently, the outing, expulsion, and attempted "degaying" of its founder Ted Haggard. (In under-reported news, apparently New Life Church may have attempted damage control for months before Haggard was publically outed.)

Less familiar, but still noteworthy, are the links between New Life Church, dominionist juntas in Guatemala, and the person most responsible for popularising "Joel's Army stuff in the Assemblies; New Life itself has links to the Assemblies (via the Royal Rangers and some other groups), including members of the "dream team" selected to "de-gay" Haggard.

And apparently the Haggard scandal--much like the televangelist sex scandals of the 80's involving a number of Assemblies-linked preachers--is having some fairly major repercussions. According to television station KMGH in Denver, people have left the church in droves to the point that layoffs are occuring with nursery and pastoral staff.
The station reports:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The megachurch founded by evangelist Ted Haggard, who was fired over drug and sex allegations, has laid off 44 people amid falling income.

The cuts announced during services Sunday amount to about 12 percent of the church's work force, associate pastor Rob Brendle said.

The 14,000-member church had experienced 22 years of attendance and financial growth, Brendle said. That ended after Haggard was fired in November after a Denver man alleged Haggard used methamphetamine in his presence and paid him for sex. Haggard has acknowledged "sexual immorality." He also stepped down as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Brendle estimated that church income has fallen 10 percent since the scandal, forcing layoffs including pastoral staff, support staff and nursery workers.

"The reality is, we ask our people to be faithful stewards of their money and living within their means. We have to do the same," Brendle said.

Ross Parsley, the church's interim senior pastor, said some positions will be consolidated, and volunteers could replace some paid staff.

Financial documents provided to The Gazette showed overall church revenue rose from $14.4 million in 2003 to $24.4 million in 2005, while expenditures rose from $13.3 million in 2003 to $23.4 million in 2005.

Figures for 2006, including the time after Haggard's departure, were not yet available.

A drop of ten percent in income is nothing to sneeze at--this is a sign that people may well be starting to walk away from the group (or at least are no longer giving money to support them) after 22 years of almost exponential growth. Don't be surprised to start seeing reports from walkaways from New Life, either--in fact, the televangelist scandals were some of the incidents that inspired one of the first rounds of "second-gen walkaways" from the Assemblies and other coercive groups. (The televangelist scandals also helped to hobble the dominionists politically, at least for a brief time before they regrouped.)

I will also be surprised if there aren't more walkaways in future--in fact, a Denver Post article indicates the church may be in the beginnings of a purge, with several members of the staff being identified as "struggling with unrelated sin issues" (generally this is code-speak for staff beginning to question the dogma of the church). Reportedly none of those identified were laid off, but I would not be surprised if some of those folks eventually come out against the group.

Further indications of a possible walking-away in progress are documented in the Colorado Springs Gazette, where the layoffs are attributed to both dropoffs in donations and "overstaffing"--the latter is in fact a rather strong indication that the church may actually be *losing* members, or at least certainly not gaining any new ones. (The same article also notes that fully a third of the income raised by the church went to salaries of pastors--all of which were above $50,000/yr, and most of which were in the triple digits. There also may be some very interesting cooking of the books going on--per the report from the Gazette, funds raised were $14.4 million in 2003 to $24.4 million in 2005--with expenditures being $13.3 million in 2003 to $23.4 million in 2005 (meaning every year, the church managed to earn a million dollars in profit). Based on this, the fact they are having to lay off workers is especially telling.)

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