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MinistryWatch’s Top 10 Stories for the Month of October

The Editors

The following stories had the most page views at the MinistryWatch website during the month of October.  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.  

  1. Falwell Sues Liberty Over Ouster

Former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell announced Monday that he is suing Liberty University, saying the school damaged his reputation after his resignation from the school.

Falwell resigned in August from the school founded by his father after a series of controversies, including allegations made by their former business partner that he had been involved in a long-standing sexual relationship with Falwell and his wife, Becky. The Falwells have denied the story.

  1. Macarthur Heads Petition To Deem Churches Essential

John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, Calif., is urging Christians to sign a petition aimed at deeming the evangelical church “essential.” In a video released yesterday (Oct. 7) alongside the petition, MacArthur also urged pastors to “open your church.”

MacArthur, who is in the throes of a legal battle with LA County after holding indoor worship services in defiance of the county’s pandemic-related restrictions, released the 4-minute video, produced in collaboration with Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, on his social media platforms. The video follows MacArthur as he walks through the campus of GCC, where he has pastored for more than 50 years.

  1. A Surge of Over 100 COVID Cases Linked To Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry

A recent COVID-19 spike in Northern California’s Shasta County has been partly attributed to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in the city of Redding, according to a local news site.

The Record Searchlight on Tuesday (Oct. 6) reported that 123 COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks were linked to the school, while 80 other cases were attributed to a rehab center in Redding.  Bethel canceled its outdoor service this past Sunday (Oct. 4) and also its upcoming Oct. 11 service. Starting this week, the School of Supernatural Ministry is switching to online instruction.  With cases surging, Shasta County will have to go through tighter COVID-19 restrictions for businesses, according to the Record Searchlight.

  1. Attorneys for Macarthur Denounce Headlines Reporting COVID Outbreak

Attorneys for Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church are condemning recent headlines declaring a coronavirus outbreak in the megachurch that has defied public health orders since July.  The Los Angeles Times on Thursday reported that three confirmed COVID-19 cases had been tied to the church. The headline for that story read: “Coronavirus outbreak strikes L.A. megachurch that defied public health orders.”  Jenna Ellis, attorney for John MacArthur and Grace Community Church, in a statement said the cases shouldn’t be characterized as an ‘outbreak.’  She called the LA Times headline “grossly misleading.”  

  1. Investigation Into Liberty University Now Open

The first public stage of an investigation into the business practices at Liberty University is now open.  Liberty confirmed in a statement Tuesday (Oct. 20) that the Virginia-based school has retained Baker Tilly US, a global forensic accounting firm, to conduct the wide-ranging review of business practices during the tenure of Jerry Falwell Jr. The inquiry, as first announced by the school board at the end of August, will cover financial, real estate, and legal matters.  The school has also launched a website to report any potential misconduct to the investigative team. The website, hosted by a third-party vendor, allows for “employees, contractors and business affiliates” of the school to file confidential submissions, according to the statement.

  1. New Allegations Against Ravi Zacharias Emerge

New allegations of sexual harassment against Ravi Zacharias have prompted Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) to open an investigation into the late founder’s behavior.  The allegations were first reported by Christianity Today (CT).  According to CT, Zacharias “sexually harassed multiple massage therapists who worked at two day spas he co-owned” in the Atlanta suburbs, near the RZIM headquarters.   Three women who worked at the businesses told Christianity Today that Ravi Zacharias “touched them inappropriately, exposed himself, and masturbated during regular treatments over a period of about five years. His business partner said he regrets not stopping Zacharias and sent an apology text to one of the victims this month.”

  1. Church Hires GRACE To Investigate Allegations Against Christian Musician Chris Rice

A church in Lexington, Ky., has hired GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Chris Rice.  Tates Creek Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Robert Cunningham released a statement Thursday (Oct. 15) announcing the investigation.  Cunningham said they are “deeply heartbroken” to inform the public of the allegations, “but we are committed to our promise to address them with the severity they deserve.”

  1. Bruce Smith Out As President/CEO at Wycliffe Associates

Bruce Smith announced on Facebook yesterday that he is no longer the President/CEO of Wycliffe Associates, the Bible translation organization that in fiscal year 2019, reported about $49-million in revenue.   “Today is the end of my season serving as President/CEO of Wycliffe Associates,” he wrote on Monday, Oct. 12.  “More than twenty years seeing God at work in and through this ministry.”  Neither Smith nor Wycliffe Associates announced the reason for his departure, though it follows nearly a year of scrutiny by MinistryWatch that has resulted in fresh questions about Smith’s leadership and the practices of the Bible translation ministry.  It also comes just weeks after a meeting of the board of Wycliffe Associates that included a discussion of Smith’s leadership of the organization and questionable practices related to marketing and finance practices.

  1. Ministry Leaders Among Those Infected At Rose Garden Event

At least a dozen people in addition to President Trump who attended a ceremony more than a week ago (Saturday, Sept. 26) in the White House Rose Garden to present Judge Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s Supreme Court nominee have been infected with the coronavirus.  The Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame University, announced on Friday (Oct. 2) that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, saying in a statement from the school that he took a test after “a colleague with whom he has been in regular contact tested positive for COVID-19.” Jenkins said his symptoms “are mild and I will continue to work from home.” Jenkins was criticized by students and faculty members for not wearing a mask and shaking hands at the Rose Garden event, spurring the school president to apologize earlier this week and initiate self-quarantine.  Greg Laurie, of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., has also tested positive.  Laurie attended the Prayer March on the Mall with Mike Pence and Franklin Graham, and he attended the nomination event in the Rose Garden as well.

  1. Denomination That Ordained Ravi Zacharias Has “Raised Concerns”

Following new and credible accusations against Ravi Zacharias of sexual harassment, the Christian and Missionary Alliance is opening an investigation into the late apologist’s behavior.

Ravi Zacharias was a well-known Christian apologist who died in May at age 74 from cancer.

According to WORLD, “The denomination where Zacharias was an ordained minister, the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA), said the new accusations ‘have raised concern’ and it is assessing ‘additional steps’ to take in light of the new information.”  Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) said earlier this week it planned to open an investigation into the late founder’s behavior. Both RZIM and the C&MA had previously staunchly defended Zacharias against allegations of inappropriate behavior that MinistryWatch and other news outlets reported as early as 2017.

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