Monday, September 29, 2008

WaMu CEO Walks Away With $20 Million

Alan H. Fishman was CEO of Washington Mutual for 17 days before the bank failed last week. For his 17 days on the job, while investors and employees lose millions, he will walk away with $20 million.

Just more evidence that Wall Street's greed has driven our economy to the brink of disaster. This happened on the Republican watch. They had the White House and the Supreme Court for the last 8 years and Congress for 6 of the last 8 years. They bear the responsibility.,2933,428641,00.html

WaMu Gives New CEO Mega Payout as Bank Fails

Nice work — if you can get fired from it.

That's just what one Alan H. Fishman might have thought when he woke up Friday morning.

Fishman was the new chief executive officer for Washingon Mutual — WaMu — the nation's largest savings and loan, which was taken over Thursday night by federal bank regulators and quickly dumped in a fire sale to JPMorgan Chase for the Wal-Mart-like price of $1.9 billion.

But don't cry for Fishman, who reportedly was sky-high — literally — last night, on a flight from New York to Seattle, when WaMu collapsed. Even though he's only been on the job for less than three weeks, he's bailing out with parachute worth close to $20 million, according to an executive compensation analysis conducted for the New York Times by James F. Reda Associates.

That's right, $20 million for 17 days on the job ... and his company failed.

Fishman, who formerly was chairman of Meridian Capital Group, apparently was much coveted by WaMu, which was counting on him to lead the failing thrift out of mortgage troubles that pushed the bank to a $3.3 billion second-quarter loss.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, WaMu threw a $7.5 million bonus at Fishman when it hired him on Sept. 8, and guaranteed him an immediate cash severence of $11.6 million — both of which he gets to keep.

He also was eligible for annual bonuses of up to 365 percent of his annual base pay — set at $1 million — to go with millions of shares of company stock.

Fishman does lose out on a big bonus that would have kicked in had he remained on the job through 2009.

Documents show WaMu was going to pay their new boss $8 million to simply not screw up and get fired — all negotiated as the Seattle-based banking giant's loses climbed to an estimated $20 billion.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Good Word About a Bad Idea

Evidently, the Alliance Defense Fund has come up with an incredibly stupid idea. They want to recruit scores of pastors by this coming Sunday (September 28th) to blatantly endorse political candidates for office. Their purpose is intentionally to provoke I.R.S. investigations of those churches with the goal toward litigating a lawsuit over the matter.

As you are probably aware, a local church is tax-exempt. That means that it cannot be active in endorsing candidates for political office. A local church (or pastor of that church) can speak out on any issue they so desire. But they cannot formally endorse political candidates. If they do so they run the risk of investigation by the I.R.S. and ultimately could lose their tax-exempt status. That means among other things that any donations to that church would no longer count for income tax deductions which would kill the fund-raising efforts for the church's budget.

There are good reasons for this prohibition. First, those of us who love and read history know the problems that are created when the church gets into bed with the state or when the state gets into bed with the church. When the "wall of separation" between the two institutions is breached ultimately, both institutions lose out. All you have to do is read the history of Christianity from the 4th to the 17th centuries and you will see how devastating union of church and state can be for Christianity. Second, the church always needs to have a prophetic voice in society, particularly against the state. When a pastor or church endorses a candidate, that pastor or church ultimately loses the prophetic high ground and no longer maintains objectivity. It makes it much more difficult to speak a prophetic word when that candidate needs it.

Of course, as you can probably guess, their real intention is not to have "freedom" in the pulpit. Their real intention is to find a legal way to allow conservative, megachurch pastors to endorse candidates so that their church members can go to the polls and vote a certain way.

Thankfully, Rev. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Commitee for Religious Liberty has spoken out about this ridiculous idea and has spoken a good word about it. He went into the "lions' den" and discussed the idea on Fox News. Here is a link to a story about his comments in the interview.

Basically, Brent said three things: (1) "Pulpit freedom" is a misnomer because pulpits are already free in America. How many examples can you think of when authorities have broken into a conservative Baptist church and carried away a pastor in handcuffs for preaching out about a social issue such as homosexuality or abortion? How many instances can you think of when a liberal church pastor has had a sermon interrupted by civil authorities and that pastor then taken away for preaching about gay rights or opposing the war? It happens in countries where there is no such thing as religious freedom and separation of church and state. But it does not happen here. Ever heard of the Westboro Baptist Church? As repulsive and abrasive as their pastor is, he still has the freedom to proclaim whatever he wants from the pulpit. Pastors aren't arrested for addressing moral issues from the pulpit. But, if they endorse a candidate, the church is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status and rightly so.

(2) Walker also said that this idea of a "pulpit freedom" sunday is a bad idea because of the dissension that it could create within the body of a local congregation. Let's face it, most congregations are very diverse politically. I have served as interim pastor of congregations that had politicians who represented both the Democratic and Republican parties. I would have been committing clergy suicide if I had climbed into the pulpit and endorsed one candidate over another!

(3) Finally, Walker said that the idea is totally unnecessary. "There is no ground swell of enthusiasm for it. In fact, a recent survey reveals that more than half think religion and politics generally have become too closely tied (52 percent). The number is even higher when asked about the specific practice of endorsing from the pulpit.”

Thank you Brent Walker and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty for speaking a good word about a bad idea!

Monday, September 22, 2008

This is Why I'm Not SBC Anymore

I have two daughters. For the record, if either or both of them ever hear the voice of God calling them to be the pastor of a local church, they will get nothing but my prayers and support. I believe that God calls women to the pastorate. I believe that women are serving as pastors of churches and serving well. I believe that under the cross, both male and female, stand on level ground. Galatians 3:28 is the guiding principle for the way I see this issue:

"There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

The article linked below from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution is to me a clear indication of how out of touch the Southern Baptist Convention is with the times. Instead of being a witness to a post-modern world, the SBC has become a laughingstock and is being rendered completely irrelevant.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Smiling women on the cover of a slick magazine. Sold from under the counter. Must request it from store clerk.

That’s not something a buyer would typically find in a Christian bookstore. Not unless it’s one of the more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstores across the United States, including about six in metro Atlanta.

Gospel Today, the Fayetteville-published magazine, was pulled off the racks by the bookstores’ owner, the Southern Baptist Convention. The problem? The five smiling women on the cover are women of the cloth — church pastors.

Southern Baptist polity says that’s a role reserved for men.
Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, whose glossy pages feature upbeat articles about health, living, music and ministry, said she discovered by e-mail that the September/October issue of the magazine had been demoted to the realm of the risque.

“It’s really kind of sad when you have people like [Gov.] Sarah Palin and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church,” Hairston said. “I was pretty shocked.”

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “It is contrary to what we believe.”
It bases those beliefs on their interpretation of New Testament Scriptures.
Southern Baptist representatives at national meetings have adopted statements saying women should not be pastors, but each church is independent. A few churches have selected women, such as Decatur First Baptist, where the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell preaches each Sunday from the pulpit.

Pastor Tamara Bennett of California is one of the featured pastors on the magazine cover and talks in the article about the challenges of breaking through the stained-glass ceiling.

“God’s assignment is that no souls are lost and all are saved,” Bennett said. “Gender is not how God sees it. We are about winning souls, period.”

Southern Baptists are not the only ones to frown on women preachers. Catholics, the largest Christian denomination in the nation, do not allow women priests. And some conservative evangelical groups, such as the Presbyterian Church in America, do not ordain women.

“We weren’t trying to pick a fight,” Hairston said. “We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

John and Cindy McCain Own 13 Cars!

There are trivial things that come out about presidential candidates during a campaign, especially in the closing weeks and days. And, while they might be dismissed as just that, trivial, they nevertheless do seem to get into the psyche of the electorate and create a narrative that can sometimes work against the candidate.

In 1988 Michael Dukakis came out of the Democratic Convention and headed into the fall campaign with something like a 16 point lead in the polls. He ended up being defeated soundly by George H. W. Bush largely because of a photo-op with Dukakis riding in a tank (I still shudder when I think of how ridiculous he looked in that video!) and the famous Willie Horton ad. Of course, Dukakis' response in the presidential debate to the question of whether he'd be in favor of the death penalty if someone raped and murdered his wife didn't help either.

In 2000 Vice-president Al Gore was ridiculed because of a comment he made that was interpreted (or mis-interpreted) to suggest that he invented the internet. Again, this one thing did not cost the election. But it helped to play into a narrative that the electorate formed about him that he sometimes played loosely with the truth.

In 2004 video footage of Senator John Kerry windsurfing somehow played into the narrative that he was elitist and out of touch with Mainstreet.

And so we come to the current presidential election. Already we have had the flap about the number of houses that John McCain owns and his inability to remember how many. And then there was the flap during the summer surrounding McCain's longtime friend and campaign financial advisor, former Senator Phil Graham, who made light of the economic storm clouds on the horizon by saying that we were a "nation of whiners" and that the economic problems were somehow a figment of our imaginations. Then came John McCain's famous line last week about the "fundamentals of our economy are sound." He made this statement on the very day that the financial sector was experiencing the greatest crisis since the Great Depression. Might this statement be looked at in the future as the moment when the campaign turned in the direction of Barack Obama?

Finally, today there is a story out about the number of cars each candidate owns. It seems that John and Cindy McCain own 13 cars and Barack and Michelle Obama own only a Ford Escape Hybrid. Here's the article:

So here's the question. Is a narrative beginning to develop that John McCain is out of touch with Mainstreet and the average voter in the midst of this terrible economic crisis? If Obama wins the election will we look back on these things and say that this narrative (whether true or false) was what turned the election?

Friday, September 19, 2008

History's Mysteries

The historian in me loves this kind of story!

Ike helps uncover mystery vessel on Ala. coast

The Associated PressFriday, September 19, 2008; 9:15 PM
FORT MORGAN, Ala. -- When the waves from Hurricane Ike receded, they left behind a mystery _ a ragged shipwreck that archeologists say could be a two-masted Civil War schooner that ran aground in 1862 or another ship from some 70 years later. The wreck, about six miles from Fort Morgan, had already been partially uncovered when Hurricane Camille cleared away sand in 1969.

Researchers at the time identified it as the Monticello, a battleship that partially burned when it crashed trying to get past the U.S. Navy and into Mobile Bay during the Civil War.
After examining photos of the wreck post-Ike, Museum of Mobile marine archaeologist Shea McLean agreed it is likely the Monticello, which ran aground in 1862 after sailing from Havana, according to Navy records.

"Based on what we know of ships lost in that area and what I've seen, the Monticello is by far the most likely candidate," McLean said. "You can never be 100 percent certain unless you find the bell with 'Monticello' on it, but this definitely fits."
Other clues indicate it could be an early 20th century schooner that ran aground on the Alabama coast in 1933.

The wrecked ship is 136.9 feet long and 25 feet wide, according to Mike Bailey, site curator at Fort Morgan, who examined it this week. The Monticello was listed in shipping records as 136 feet long, McLean told the Press-Register of Mobile.
But Bailey said a 2000 report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined the remains were the schooner Rachel, built at Moss Point, Miss., in 1919 and wrecked near Fort Morgan in 1933.

He said the wreckage appears to have components, such as steel cables, that would point to the Rachel rather than an 1860s schooner.
Glenn Forest, another archaeologist who examined the wreck, said a full identification would require an excavation.

"It's a valuable artifact," he said. "They need to get this thing inside before it falls apart or another storm comes along and sends it through those houses there like a bowling ball."
Meanwhile, curious beach-goers have been drawn to the remains of the wooden hull filled with rusted iron fittings. Fort Morgan was used by Confederate soldiers as Union forces attacked in 1864 during the Battle of Mobile Bay.

"It's interesting, I can tell you that," said Terri Williams. "I've lived down here most of my life and I've never seen anything like this, and it's been right here."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Interesting Comparisons

A former student emailed me the following this morning. It is probably a bit of an exaggeration but is nevertheless still an interesting read.

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight....

If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic, different.'Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.

If your name is Barack, you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim. Name your kids Willow , Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

Graduate from Harvard Law School and you are unstable. Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience. If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian. If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife (WHILE SHE WAS FIGHTING BREAST CANCER) and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain's Campaign of Dishonor

After his gaffe yesterday of saying that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong," today John McCain spent his efforts trying to convey two messages. (1) He tried to argue that the "fundamentals" he referred to was the American worker. What a stretch!

(2) He and all his surrogates spent the day talking about how Obama would raise taxes and that anyone knows that raising taxes in a bad economy can only make things worse. Obama claims, on the other hand, that he is actually going to cut taxes for the majority of Americans. The only people getting tax increases are the very wealthy. He further clarifies that he wants to simply take the tax code back to where it was during the Clinton presidency, when the economy was arguably the best in American history since WWII.

So, I did some investigation. Who is telling the truth? Here's what I discovered from the Washington Post:

What do you think?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Paul Krugman on the Lies of the McCain Campaign

John McCain and Sarah Palin are not just distorting the truth with some of their claims. They are liars. Plain and simple.

Paul Krugman, columnist for the New York Times has a good column out today about this very topic. I enclose it below. The basic theme of the article is that the way a candidate runs a campaign is a good indication of how a candidate will run the White House. And so the conclusion is that if McCain/Palin are out and out lying right now about their records and Barak Obama's records, that is a very good indication that the lies and distortions of the last eight years will continue, perhaps even worse, in a McCain administration.

John McCain has changed. He has sold out completely to the darker forces in the Republican Party. Personally, when I read that Charlie Black was joining the McCain Campaign as an advisor, I realized that the Maverick image of the 2000 presidential election was going to be gone forever. Charlie Black is a lobbyist and is about as sleazy as they come. You can Google his name and find out more about him.

Here is Krugman's column. I think he's on to something.

Blizzard of Lies
Did you hear about how Barack Obama wants to have sex education in kindergarten, and called Sarah Palin a pig? Did you hear about how Ms. Palin told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks” when it wanted to buy Alaska a Bridge to Nowhere?
These stories have two things in common: they’re all claims recently made by the McCain campaign — and they’re all out-and-out lies.
Dishonesty is nothing new in politics. I spent much of 2000 — my first year at The Times — trying to alert readers to the blatant dishonesty of the Bush campaign’s claims about taxes, spending and Social Security.
But I can’t think of any precedent, at least in America, for the blizzard of lies since the Republican convention. The Bush campaign’s lies in 2000 were artful — you needed some grasp of arithmetic to realize that you were being conned. This year, however, the McCain campaign keeps making assertions that anyone with an Internet connection can disprove in a minute, and repeating these assertions over and over again.
Take the case of the Bridge to Nowhere, which supposedly gives Ms. Palin credentials as a reformer. Well, when campaigning for governor, Ms. Palin didn’t say “no thanks” — she was all for the bridge, even though it had already become a national scandal, insisting that she would “not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative.”
Oh, and when she finally did decide to cancel the project, she didn’t righteously reject a handout from Washington: she accepted the handout, but spent it on something else. You see, long before she decided to cancel the bridge, Congress had told Alaska that it could keep the federal money originally earmarked for that project and use it elsewhere.
So the whole story of Ms. Palin’s alleged heroic stand against wasteful spending is fiction.
Or take the story of Mr. Obama’s alleged advocacy of kindergarten sex-ed. In reality, he supported legislation calling for “age and developmentally appropriate education”; in the case of young children, that would have meant guidance to help them avoid sexual predators.
And then there’s the claim that Mr. Obama’s use of the ordinary metaphor “putting lipstick on a pig” was a sexist smear, and on and on.
Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well, they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong, it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.
They’re probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race reporting, so that instead of the story being “McCain campaign lies,” it becomes “Obama on defensive in face of attacks.”
Still, how upset should we be about the McCain campaign’s lies? I mean, politics ain’t beanbag, and all that.
One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.
But there’s another answer, which may be even more important: how a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern.
I’m not talking about the theory, often advanced as a defense of horse-race political reporting, that the skills needed to run a winning campaign are the same as those needed to run the country. The contrast between the Bush political team’s ruthless effectiveness and the heckuva job done by the Bush administration is living, breathing, bumbling, and, in the case of the emerging Interior Department scandal, coke-snorting and bed-hopping proof to the contrary.
I’m talking, instead, about the relationship between the character of a campaign and that of the administration that follows. Thus, the deceptive and dishonest 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign provided an all-too-revealing preview of things to come. In fact, my early suspicion that we were being misled about the threat from Iraq came from the way the political tactics being used to sell the war resembled the tactics that had earlier been used to sell the Bush tax cuts.
And now the team that hopes to form the next administration is running a campaign that makes Bush-Cheney 2000 look like something out of a civics class. What does that say about how that team would run the country?
What it says, I’d argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remembering Charles Howard

When I joined the faculty of the Religion Department at Campbell University in 1994, I believe that it was the late Dr. Don Keyser who first mentioned the name “Charles Howard” to me. I had not known Charles Howard and only vaguely recalled hearing his name before I arrived at Campbell. Dr. Keyser was the first occupant of the “Charles Howard Chair of Religion.” It didn’t take very many conversations with Dr. Keyser before I realized how much love, respect, and admiration he had for his former teacher.

In 2001, several years after Dr. Keyser’s retirement, the university bestowed upon me the honor of being the second “Charles Howard Professor of Religion.” Always, in the back of my mind, there has been an interest, a research interest, in knowing more about this man that many of you knew personally. But, there were other research projects, other articles to write, classes to teach, and sermons to prepare. So, my interest in Charles Howard was placed on the “back burner” as a project I’d tackle someday.

When Dr. Keyser passed away two years ago, my interest in Charles Howard began to rekindle. My larger concern was for our Religion majors, that they have some awareness of the great tradition of which they are a part. A very large part of that tradition is the name Charles Barrett Howard. In short, Howard is a legend among Baptists in the South and I wanted Religion majors to have an awareness of him.

Charles Howard was born in Salemburg, North Carolina on December 2, 1900. Both of his parents, two brothers, and one sister died of tuberculosis when Howard was a small child. Although stricken by tuberculosis himself, he survived and was raised by his maternal grandparents. When he was seventeen, he attended North Carolina State University for one year. In 1918 he became a Christian, and very shortly thereafter, influenced by his grandfather’s prayers, he accepted a call to preach. Salemburg Baptist Church licensed him to the ministry and the next day, June 10, 1918, he preached his very first sermon. With further education at Wake Forest College Charles Howard embarked on a career behind the pulpit that would last for 70 years.

I refer to him as a “legend” because his influence can be seen in three areas. First, he was a preacher. He served as pastor of 26 different congregations in North Carolina but he had an understanding with his churches that when an opportunity to preach a revival presented itself, he had to take it. Consequently, he led 1,263 revivals in 700 different churches over his career. He preached more than 20,000 sermons in 23 different states. He preached revivals in five different churches whose pastors had been president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Furthermore, he preached at state-wide evangelistic conferences, state conventions, Southern Baptist Convention meetings. He preached at associational events, BYPU events, and Baptist Training Union events. He preached 87 times on college and university campuses. For seven decades, the name “Charles Howard” was a household name among Baptists in the South. On a personal note, I can’t tell you the number of times when I have preached in a church here in North Carolina and introduced as the “Charles Howard Professor of Religion,” only to have one or two people come up to me at the conclusion of the service with a Charles Howard story.

Second, Charles Howard needs to be remembered as the first Religion professor at Campbell University. In 1934 he became the pastor of the Buies Creek First Baptist Church, succeeding J.A. Campbell, the founder of our university. A few years later he began teaching Bible at Campbell. This became a full-time position in 1946. In 1959 he became “Professor Emeritus” and entered evangelism fulltime, but did not end his service to the university. He remained active in the life of Campbell College for the rest of his life. When he retired from evangelism in 1973, Campbell once again recruited Howard into service as “Director of Denominational Emphasis,” a position he held until his death in 1988.

Charles Howard was a thorough professor. I have a file that contains some of his tests from his Bible class. Here are some questions from one of his final exams in May, 1958:

*“List the six most prominent characters in the Life of Jesus”
*“List the six most prominent characters in the Book of Acts, putting parentheses after each name and the number of the chapter in which it appears.”
*“List the six most prominent characters in the Life of Paul, putting parentheses after each name and an identifying phrase.”
*“List in chronological order the six persons and groups most largely responsible for the persecution of the early Christian Church.”
*“On the third blank sheet (of paper included) define, at top of sheet, “Pre-Existence,” “Logos,” “Incarnation,” and write a paragraph on the birth of Jesus.”

These are just five of sixteen questions on this final exam suggesting that he was demanding as a professor and that his students knew the Bible when they completed his class.

But that is only part of the story about Howard’s influence as a professor. The other part, the intangible is the tremendous love and respect he received from his students, a reciprocation of the love that he had for his students. I was working with the Charles Howard Papers in the N. C. Baptist Archives at Wake Forest University several weeks ago and found a folder of correspondence between Charles Howard and our late President, Dr. Norman Adrian Wiggins. Dr. Wiggins had Charles Howard as a professor in 1942. His love and admiration for Howard was obvious in the correspondence. At the bottom of one letter, as Dr. Wiggins was prone to do, he scribbled a personal note: “You and Miss Alma mean more to Millie and me than you could possibly know. We will continue to pray for God’s blessings upon you.” Don Keyser once wrote, “I never felt closer to God than when Charles Howard prayed.” Clearly, Charles Howard had that unique ability that all of us who teach college students desire: the ability to challenge both the heart and the mind and gain the love and respect of the student at the same time.

A third reason that we should remember Charles Howard concerns his work as a philanthropist. Although he and Mrs. Howard never earned a salary of more than $3000 per year together they were able to establish and manage a fund called the Howard Memorial Christian Education Fund, named after his parents Betty Cooper and Henry Bizzle Howard, which provided aid to students, faculty, churches, and other Christians who found themselves to be in need. The fund began in 1926 with a $25 gift from Charles Howard to a student who didn’t quite have enough money to enroll at Wake Forest College. Perhaps the most famous loan was in 1928 to J. Winston Pearce. Howard had finally saved up $132 to buy his fiancĂ©, Alma Dark, an engagement ring. He received a letter from Pearce who was working three part-time jobs but didn’t have enough money to stay at Campbell. He needed a loan of $130. Howard decided to loan the money and forgo the ring.

Such were the meager beginnings of the Fund. To date the fund has distributed more than $4,000,000 in the form of loans, scholarships, and gifts to more than 4,000 students and other Christian workers such as missionaries, pastors, and employees of Christian institutions. The Fund endowed two chairs at Campbell University, the Howard Chair of Religion and the Alma Dark Howard Chair of Church Music. There are also a number of endowed scholarships which bear the name “Howard.” The Fund provided low interest loans to churches for buildings, faculty and staff for mortgages, and to faculty to pursue further education. It supported prison ministries, handicapped ministry, counseling services and the daycare center at Memorial Baptist Church in Buies Creek.

Charles Howard died twenty years ago this past February 27th. It is appropriate that his name should be remembered, not only among the Campbell University community but also among all North Carolina Baptists. Back in March, at our annual Department of Religion Lecture Series, we dedicated a portrait of Charles Howard which now hangs in the outer office of the Department of Religion here at Campbell. It is a fitting tribute to a man whose life was so closely tied to Campbell University for more than 50 years. In 1968, Memorial Baptist Church in Buies Creek, Howard’s home church, held a special 50th anniversary celebration of Howard’s ministry. In his sermon, Howard summarized his ministerial philosophy in words still relevant today:
When broad knowledge meets holy fire in the heart of a preacher one of God’s great miracles happens in our world. Knowledge without spiritual fire may make a mere pulpit technician. Spiritual fervor without knowledge may make a fanatic. The marriage of the two may make a prophet of God.

(A version of this article is currently on the website of the Biblical Recorder.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Of All Places to Make Such an Error

If you don't live in North Carolina you are probably still aware of the intense rivalry in sports between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke University Blue Devils. Both schools are superb academic institutions with outstanding sports programs. Many of their teams are ranked nationally in a variety of sports.

Last Saturday, the Tar Heels hired a skydiving team, from a Virginia company called "Ariel Adventures." (The irony of the name makes the story even better!). The skydivers were supposed to parachute into Keenan Stadium on the UNC campus with the game ball for the season opener against McNeese State. Unfortunately, due to cloudy conditions, the pilot of the plane got the wrong location for the stadium. Eight miles away, in Wallace Wade Stadium on the Duke campus, the Blue Devils were in their pre-game warmups for their season opener against James Madison University. Suddenly, out of the sky dropped two skydivers with a game ball who landed perfectly on the field. Unfortunately, they had the wrong stadium. The stunned crowd and shocked players must have wondered if they were under attack. The embarrassed skydivers hurried off the field. No one was hurt. As the News and Observer reported, "The men didn't hit any players on the field. They just hit the wrong field." (

What an incredible mistake!

P.S. Last Saturday, Campbell University played its first football game in 58 years before a crowd of more than 5800 fans. Just before the game the elite U.S. Army Golden Knights parachuted into our stadium with the game ball. I'm sure glad they didn't end up at Gardner-Webb!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

God's Will According to Sarah Palin

The Republicans have been on defense this week over all the stories that are coming out of Alaska about Sarah Palin. I'm not even going to mention the issue with her 17 year-old daughter because I truly believe that is a family matter that should be left alone. However, there are other matters such as the "troopergate" story (she's currently under investigation from the Alaska state legislature for misuse of her power as governor), her ties to indicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, her flip-flop on the "bridge to nowhere," her membership in the radical fringe group the Alaska Independence Party, and her utter lack of qualifications to be a "heartbeat away from the presidency," etc. There are even stories now out about her time as mayor before she became governor.

All that aside, one of the most troubling revelations came late this afternoon. It surfaced in a video of her giving a speech to the graduating students at her former church, the Wasilla Assembly of God. You can hear the speech in its entirety here:

The most troubling thing in the video, is the comment she maked about half-way into the speech:

"Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure we're praying for. That there is a plan and that it is God's plan."

I have serious reservations about someone who has such a twisted theological understanding about the war in Iraq. To say the war was necessary (President Bush's argument) is one thing. To say it is a "task from God" is something that is really, really scary! Wonder if she has ever heard of Jesus' words: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God."