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EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Perry Stone, The King’s College, and Reading Between The Numbers at the UMC

Editor’s Note:  Most Saturdays we will feature this “Editor’s Notebook” column. MinistryWatch President Warren Smith will comment on one or more stories in the week’s news, adding an additional perspective or, sometimes, a behind-the-scenes look at how the story came to be. 

Small Town Justice?

A grand jury in Tennessee has ruled that an FBI investigation into sexual misconduct claims has not produced enough evidence to charge him with crimes.

The FBI began investigating Stone in 2021, after four women said they were victims of sexual misconduct by Stone. The district attorney presented investigation findings to the grand jury last March.

But the decision has raised eyebrows in the rural community in east Tennessee.

Since 2018, Stone’s ministry Voice of Evangelism, has given the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office more than $36,000 for the purchase of body cameras and in-car cameras. In addition, the Chattanooga Times said Stone and his ministries regularly hire several off-duty sheriff’s office employees to provide security for events.

Could such largesse be playing a role in these proceedings? Perry Stone Ministries did not respond to requests from MinistryWatch for comment at the time of publication. District Attorney Stephen Crump, in Bradley County, Tennessee, said that despite the ruling, he would keep the case file open in case new information becomes available.

Bottom line:  It seems unlikely that this is the last we’ll be hearing about this story.

Reading Between The Numbers at the UMC

This week we reported that the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church has approved the conditional disaffiliation of 55 churches over human sexuality issues, including the same-sex marriages and potential ordination of pastors who identify as LGBTQ.

Now, 55 churches doesn’t seem like a lot. After all, there are some 30,000 UMC congregations in the United States.

But if you look closely at the numbers, and put them in a larger context, you quickly discover that what’s happening in the UMC is nothing short of historic.

First, these 55 departures are just the latest departures. More than 2,000 churches have so far left the UMC. By year-end, a key deadline in the disaffiliation process, that number is expected to be many thousands more.

Secondly, it’s important to note which churches are leaving. In general, they are the largest and healthiest churches in the denomination.

Take these Florida churches as an example. These 55 churches will take with them nearly 30,000 members, or 15 percent of total the membership of the Florida Annual Conference. Some simple math reveals that the average membership of the 55 departing churches is more than 500 people. The average UMC church has less than 200 people. Once the disaffiliation process in the UMC is complete, it’s likely that the average UMC denomination will have less than 100 people.

Also, did you notice the value of the real estate these 55 churches are taking with them? The Conference placed the value of the assets in the departing churches at $35.8 million, plus real estate valued at $306.4 million.

The Bible teaches that “the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.” But the Bible makes no specific promises about a particular church. The United Methodist Church is demonstrating – as the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ did before it – that abandoning Scripture in a headlong pursuit of progressive ideology is the path to irrelevancy and demise.

Hope For The King’s College

The King’s College, which has been much in the news lately as a result of financial and governance problems, announced that it “mutually and amicably agreed to end” its collaboration” with Primacorp Ventures, Inc.

Primacorp Ventures is a for-profit corporation led by controversial entrepreneur Peter Chung.

Henry Moriello, the chairman of the board, made the announcement late Friday, April 21. The statement said Stockwell Day would continue in his role as Interim President to assist with transition matters, but other board members with ties to Primacorp have resigned.

They will be replaced with people who have strong ties to The King’s College.

Many observers – including me — believe that terminating the relationship with Primacorp and adding board members with King’s College ties was vital in restoring donor trust. It’s too early to tell if this move has been “too little, too late,” but it was definitely the right thing to do if the college has any hope of survival.

I continue to believe that King’s is a unique resource in evangelicalism, and worth saving. I know many of the new board members, and know them to be committed, talented, honorable people. The past few years have been tough for the college, but it remains my prayer that the recent troubles will eventually be nothing more than plot twists in a beautiful story.

Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.