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Ministry News Monthly Lists

MinistryWatch’s Top 10 Stories for the Month of January

The following stories had the most page views at the MinistryWatch website during the month of January. We present them here in a “countdown” format, from 10 to 1. The first few sentences of each story are reproduced below. To read the entire story, click on the link. To read the Top 25 stories of 2022, click here.

  1. 100 Highly Paid Christian College and University Executives – 2023

Below is a list of 100 highly paid Christian college and university executives. The information was derived from the latest available Form 990 prepared by the ministry itself. In years past, we have included the executives on this list in our annual list of “Highly Compensated Ministry Executives,” published yesterday.  However, as our database has grown it became obvious that we had enough data for two lists that provide more of an “apples to apples” comparison.  Thus this second list.

  1. Child Porn Charges Added to Life Sentence for Youth Pastor Who Killed and Dismembered Teen

On Jan. 23, authorities sentenced a former Florida youth pastor to seven years in state prison for child pornography. The Jacksonville youth pastor is already serving a life sentence for murdering and dismembering a teen he fostered. In April, Ronnie Hyde, 66, was charged with 1st-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for killing and cutting a 16-year-old boy’s body into pieces in 1994. Last week, Hyde pleaded guilty to three counts of child pornography after detectives confirmed his fingerprints on multiple materials taken from his residence.

  1. The Ten Best Books I Read in 2022

I know people who claim to read a book a day.  I don’t believe them. They may have sat with the book in their lap and turned all the pages in the book from front to back. They may even have read the chapter titles and the opening and closing paragraphs of those chapters. But reading a book — to really read and absorb a book — takes time, skill, attention, and love. So the list of books I read in 2022 is not long.  It ended up being about 30 books.  When one reads only 30 books in a year, it would be presumptuous to say that any list that person creates would be the “best” books of the year.  So I will simply say they are the best of the books I read.

  1. ‘He Gets Us’ Organizers Hope to Spend $1 Billion to Promote Jesus. Will Anyone Care?

For the past 10 months, the “He Gets Us” ads have shown up on billboards, YouTube channels and television screens — most recently during NFL playoff games — across the country, all spreading the message that Jesus understands the human condition. The campaign is a project of the Servant Foundation, an Overland Park, Kansas, nonprofit that does business as The Signatry, but the donors backing the campaign have until recently remained anonymous — in early 2022, organizers only told Religion News Service that funding came from “like-minded families who desire to see the Jesus of the Bible represented in today’s culture with the same relevance and impact He had 2000 years ago.” But in November, David Green, the billionaire co-founder of Hobby Lobby, told talk show host Glenn Beck that his family was helping fund the ads.

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  1. South Carolina’s Largest UMC Church Set to Leave Denomination

South Carolina’s largest United Methodist church is gearing up to break from the denomination with a formal vote expected in February. Mt. Horeb United Methodist, located in Lexington, South Carolina, 17 miles from Columbia, the state capital, has for some time been inching toward a disaffiliation vote. For the past several years the church has been active in the Wesleyan Covenant Association, the group that birthed the rival Global Methodist Church last year. Beginning Jan. 9, Mt. Horeb begins a 30-day discernment period after which it will vote on whether to break away from the denomination. Two-thirds of the congregation must vote to leave to trigger the exit. The vote has not been scheduled.

  1. UMC’s North Georgia Conference Blocks Church Departures

A regional body of the United Methodist Church in Georgia will temporarily block member churches from leaving the denomination, citing the spread of “defamatory” misinformation about the United Methodist Church and its disaffiliation procedure. In an email sent Dec. 28, the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church announced a “pause” on disaffiliations in the region until the United Methodist Church’s global decision-making body, the General Conference, meets in 2024.

  1. Churches Leaving Acts 29 Cite Issues With Financial and Organizational Transparency

Last week, Coram Deo Church in Bremerton, Washington, published a letter explaining why the congregation would be leaving the church-planting Acts 29 Network chaired by mega-church pastor Matt Chandler. The church cited several reasons, including theological and cultural issues such as LGBTQ issues and critical race theory about which he said Acts 29 has not provided clarity. It also cited concern about a “lack of financial and organizational transparency.” Jon Needham, lead pastor of Coram Deo, wrote that the church has been engaged in a process to resolve some of its concerns for over a year, without receiving the clarification it desired. The elders voted unanimously to leave the network in December 2022.

  1. Johnny Hunt, Disgraced Former SBC Pastor, Makes Defiant Return to Pulpit

Claiming “false allegations” had ruined his life, former Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt returned to the pulpit Jan. 15, eight months after allegations that he had sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife became public. Hunt was the guest preacher at Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida, where his friend the Rev. Steven L. Kyle is pastor. Kyle was part of a small group of pastors who deemed Hunt fit to return to the ministry, despite the allegations against him. Kyle introduced Hunt, who joined Hiland Park as a member in 2022, calling him “one of the greatest pulpiteers in our generation.”

  1. 100 Highly Paid Ministry Executives – 2023

Below is a list of 100 highly paid Christian ministry executives. The information was derived from the latest available Form 990 prepared by the ministry itself. We are not calling this list the “Highest Paid Christian Ministry Executives” because we know that many pastors and other church leaders who might make more are not on this list, because churches are not required to make their Form 990s available to the public. Also, MinistryWatch has identified a growing trend among Christian ministries to identify as churches and thereby withhold their Form 990s. Among the MinistryWatch 1000 ministries in the country who have made this election include: CRU/Campus Crusade for Christ, The Navigators, Gideons International, Willow Creek Association, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Joyce Meyer Ministries, Denison Forum, and Ethnos360/New Tribes Mission.

  1. There Go the Churches

Just weeks ago, 487 United Methodist churches were approved for disaffiliation from the denomination, bringing the total of ratified exits to 1,314. Hundreds more have already voted to exit and are awaiting final approval. Almost all of them are theologically conservative churches anticipating the denomination’s official and enthusiastic liberalization on LGBTQ issues when its governing General Conference meets in 2024. By the end of this year (the deadline for exiting with church property) at least 3,000 and possibly 5,000 churches are expected to exit. United Methodism has 30,000 U.S. churches. Denominational agencies are preparing for a 38% drop in funding for 2025-2028, which implies an approximate expected membership loss of 2.3 million members from the nearly 6.3 million the denomination had in the United States in 2020. That is not a minor exodus.