Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pulpit plagiarism - AJC

FROM THE PULPIT: Pastor inspiration: Divine or online? John Blake at "Two days after the Virginia Tech shooting, Bishop Eddie Long walked before the congregation of his Lithonia megachurch and said the Holy Spirit had a message for them.

The senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church preached a sermon he called 'Act of Man or Act of God?' He talked about a 'misguided, twisted' student who murdered 32 people before killing himself. He invoked the book of Job and punctuated his delivery with dramatic sighs and anguished grunts. The congregation was shouting by sermon's end.

Few, if any, knew the inspiration for Long's sermon wasn't confined to the Holy Spirit. It also came from, a preaching Web site that offers pastors prepackaged sermons for a fee. Long's words matched large portions of a Virginia Tech sermon with a similar title ("Acts of Man and Acts of God") posted on the site. A Google search revealed that at least three other pastors —- including one in Alpharetta —- had preached long passages from the Internet sermon.

Parishioners who dwell on the meaning of their pastor's words now face the question: Is the sermon an act of man or an act of the Internet? Sermon borrowing —- called "pulpit plagiarism" by critics —- is spreading among the nation's clergy.

"The kerosene on the fire is the Internet," the Rev. Thomas Long, a professor of preaching at Emory University's Candler School of Theology (and no relation to the New Birth pastor), wrote in a recent article in Christian Century magazine."


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