Saturday, August 25, 2007

An Anonymous Letter

This week Bellevue deacons, some members of the choir, members of Joe Jernigan's class, and perhaps others received this anonymous letter.

While I think if you're going to send a letter to someone by mail you should have the courage to sign your name, that's really not the issue here. I have no idea at all who wrote it. I can't even guess based upon the writing style, and besides, it's likely someone I don't know. But instead of criticizing the author for not signing his or her name or for sending it in the first place, why not critique the content of the letter itself? As someone so appropriately pointed out, we don't know who wrote the book of Hebrews either, but that doesn't diminish the value of what it says.

The sermon archives can be accessed here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"I'm going to teach Bellevue to be a praying church!"

What thoughts crossed your mind when you heard Steve Gaines utter these words from the pulpit in 2005?

In 2005 Bellevue's Annual Love Offering was earmarked for a new prayer chapel.

2005 Love Offering

Since that time, little has been said about a prayer chapel. Some who saw the plans claimed there was a prayer labyrinth in the plans. I've been trying for a long time to confirm this and only recently acquired what appears to be an architect's rendering of the Bellevue Prayer Chapel.

Prayer Chapel Plans

While the plan appears to include a labyrinth, upon closer inspection you can see, at least in these plans, it's really a circular room with three concentric rows of pews and kneeling benches. There are four doors off the main circular corridor leading to this room, and there's space in the center for a sculpture or some other focal point. While not a labyrinth per se, it does seem to have been inspired by the same.

Others who claim to have seen the plans have said the plans they saw specifically included a "prayer labyrinth" which was labeled as such, so perhaps it was removed from the original plans or there were more than one set of plans made.

However, the idea of a separate prayer chapel, especially in light of the recent budget shortfalls, begs a number of questions.

1. Why does Bellevue need a whole separate building devoted to "prayer"? We already have a 7500-seat auditorium that's open during the day as well as a chapel. Why the need to go somewhere special to pray?

2. Would the prayer chapel be open 24/7? If so, how safe could this be?

3. Who will "man" it? Paid or volunteer staff? (There don't appear to be any offices in this particular plan.)

4. There's a large 100-seat classroom/auditorium at the rear of the building. Again, Bellevue already has a whole building full of classrooms. Why spend money on more classroom space?

And speaking of prayer, here are the Personal Prayer Guide and the first two "assignments" for the "Pastor's Pit Crew," the children's prayer ministry that was begun by the new Director of Prayer. Is this what Steve Gaines meant when he said he was going to teach Bellevue to be a "praying church"?

Personal Prayer Guide

Assignment 1

Assignment 2

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sign It or Yer Out!

At a recent coaches' meeting BBC's volunteer coaches were given the following documents to fill out and sign and told that it would be mandatory if they wished to continue coaching.

first document includes the Basic Application, the Leadership Covenant, a Background Information sheet, and a Volunteer Authorization/Consent & Release form. It is obvious from the wording of the "Leadership Covenant" that it was written for use with Sunday School teachers and other workers.

second document includes the Coaches Covenant and a sheet concerning Biblical Peacemaking.

Finally, attached was a
copy of A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Can we assume this means there will be credit checks, too?

In this day and age I don't think anyone who's going to work with minors should object to a criminal background check, but the "loyalty oath" and checking members' giving records is too much. The latter has already been happening for some time. People have already been "called on the carpet" for not giving as much as Steve Gaines thought they should. I wonder if it's ever occurred to him that some people drop cash in the collection plate. So how does he know people aren't tithing 10%? And even if he knows how much someone gives, how does he know how much someone makes? They've got your Social Security number and a signed release to do what? Check with your bank?

Of all the red flags that were raised as I read through these documents (and they were legion), the one that stood out the most was this one:

"I waive any right that I may have to inspect references provided on my behalf."

So if a background check shows something in someone's past that is questionable, and the person questions it, he is waiving his right to ever see the information? Think about the implications of that!

Recent numbers I saw revealed that the number of Sunday School classes at BBC for 8th through 12th graders for the coming year has been reduced from 126 to 75. That's a decrease of 40% and a loss of 102 teachers (two per class). At that time they were still short 30 teachers or about 20% of the number needed. Perhaps if this is accurate, there has been a similar reduction in the number of youth participating in sports. So maybe by requiring the coaches to sign these covenants and other agreements they're weeding out the "dissenters" while reducing the staff to the actual number of coaches needed. It would certainly ensure that only the "loyal" remain.

This comment was left by "junkster" in this thread and deserves highlighting:

From the BBC Volunteer Application, last page (Volunteer Authorization/Consent & Release):


Note the words "record keeping agencies and any other source." Signing this form authorizes BBC to do a credit/financial check. From such checks it is easy to determine one's income, which can then be used to check tithing records (assuming donations are not given anonymously, which they usually aren't, so people can claim them as charitable donations on their tax deductions.)

But even scarier is that signing this would authorize BBC to collect background information from any source, including, in theory, your school records, traffic tickets, video rentals, library records, medical history, psychological/psychiatric history, etc. I doubt that just because I signed a church document my doctors would share my medical records with my church without checking with me first, but my point is that, legally speaking, by signing that document I'd be authorizing pretty much anything. It would not be wise or prudent to sign that sort of release, for a church or for anyone.

Sunday School teachers, staff members, ushers, choir and orchestra members, and... déjà vu, deacons... all beware. Your day is coming! Choose you this day whom you will serve!