worship wars

Donald Trump meets worship wars in controversial Kennedy Center, Dallas rites

Donald Trump meets worship wars in controversial Kennedy Center, Dallas rites

Rare is the Church of England worshipper who needs a pew copy of Hymns Ancient and Modern in order to sing No. 578, which is often performed with great pomp -- trumpets and all -- in the rites that symbolize the old glory of Great Britain.

The first verse: "God save our gracious Queen, long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen! Send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us: God save the Queen."

That works in England, which has a state church. However, some flashy church-state rites at the Kennedy Center recently raised lots of American eyebrows, inspiring online shouts of "Idolatry!" In particular, critics focused on an anthem performed by the First Baptist Church of Dallas choir and orchestra during the "Celebrate Freedom Rally."

The first verse, sung before a speech by President Donald Trump, proclaimed: "Make America great again! Lift the torch of freedom all across the land. Step into the future joining hand in hand. And make America great again."

The Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist, Dallas, was just as blunt during his remarks during the rally in Washington, D.C.

"God declared that the people, and not the pollsters, were going to choose the next president of the United States and they chose Donald Trump," shouted Jeffress, an early Trump supporter. "Christians understood that he alone had the leadership skills to reverse the downward death spiral our nation was in."

Jeffress later defended the anthem, which was based on the Trump campaign slogan. It was not "sung in a church as a worship song on Sunday morning," he told The Christian Post.

However, others were just as offended by the fireworks, flag-waving and political sermonizing during this year's "Freedom Sunday" services in First Baptist, Dallas. A typical response came at the "Ponder Anew" blog in the Patheos public-square forum.

Synagogue for Jewish seekers

For centuries, Jews have watched their rabbis show reverence to God during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur rites by doing a prostration at the front of the synagogue. This symbolic act takes place during the "Aleinu" prayer that reminds worshipers of their duty to "bend our knees, and bow down, and give thanks, before the Ruler, the Ruler of Rulers, the Holy One, Blessed is God."

Rabbi Shira Stutman isn't sure how many people will accept her invitation to exit the pews and perform this prostration for themselves during her seeker-friendly High Holy Days service at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C. But many of those who do, she said, will find themselves assuming a familiar meditative pose.

It helps to know that this unusual synagogue offers occasional services that blend yoga with traditional Shabbat prayers.

"There are different ways to do a full prostration, but one of them looks exactly like the yoga position called 'Child's Pose,' " said Stutman, referring to a move in which individuals sink to their knees, bow their foreheads to the floor and extend their arms forward. "I'm guessing that for most of the people who will attend the service I'm leading -- young professionals in their 20s and 30s -- the Child's Pose will be more familiar than the tradition of the rabbi prostrating during the Aleinu prayer.

"This will let me use this simple yoga pose to talk about what the act of prostrating can mean for us in worship."

This is the kind of multi-layered experience that is common at Sixth and I, which offers four radically different services -- Orthodox, conservative, family friendly and progressive -- during the holy season that begins at sundown today (Sept. 8) with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and ends 10 days later with Yom Kippur, the solemn Day of Atonement.

This multi-domed sanctuary on the edge of the Chinatown neighborhood has a complex and poignant history. Built in 1908 for the Adas Israel Congregation, it was sold in 1951 to the Turner Memorial AME Church and, by 2002, was hours away from being converted into a nightclub.

However, a trio of Jewish developers rushed in and purchased it for $5 million. Before long, they had created a coalition that focused on creating an urban facility that was part synagogue, part education complex, part community center and part concert hall -- yet independent from the branches of Judaism that have defined the faith for the past century or so.

"Jews in this generation, or generations, don't want to define themselves by the terms of the past," said Esther Foer, the synagogue's executive director. "Those denominational labels -- like 'Conservative' and 'Orthodox' and 'Conservadox' -- don't matter much anymore, especially when you are talking about how people want to worship.

"What matters, at the end of the day, is that we are all Jews -- who are praying."

While Stutman was trained in a liberal Reconstructionist school, she stressed that the synagogue does not have one defining congregation or rabbi. Instead, it uses six prayer books and is served by six rabbis and scores of other worship leaders. Her "Sixth in the City" services are attempts to create "primal worship" experiences, mixing English and Hebrew with themes from many sources, including Judaism, mass media and different world religions.

All of this is fitting in an age in which the vast majority of young Jews have no affiliation whatsoever with traditional Jewish institutions. Jewish leaders are struggling with this reality, as demonstrated by a 2001 survey that defined a Jew as someone whose "religion is Jewish, OR, whose religion is Jewish and something else, OR, who has no religion and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing, OR, who has a non-monotheistic religion, and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing."

What matters, said Stutman, is that people are searching for connections and experiences that help define who they are -- as Jews.

"We are not defined by any one set of doctrines or dogmas ... so every Jewish service is a fusion service," she said. "At any Jewish service there are people in the room with 1000 different views of God and half of them are probably atheists anyway. That's a given. What matters is that people know there is a place where they find community and keep searching."

Quiet Lutheran worship wars

If members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod have heard it once, they've heard their national leaders repeat this mantra a thousand times: "This is not your grandfather's church." That's certainly what musician Phillip Magness experienced when he took a sabbatical at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Ill., and began a research tour after the 2006 release of the Lutheran Service Book. Since he led the committee charged with promoting the new hymnal, Magness wanted to see what was happening in the conservative denomination's sanctuaries.

"What I found out is that we're a lot like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates," he said. "It says Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod on the sign, but when you go inside you have no idea what you're going to get. ... Some of our churches are playing with the structure of the liturgy and some are playing with the content and our whole synod is trying to find out how to draw some boundaries."

One pastor wanted to offer five worship services in five musical formats to meet the needs of what he perceived as five separate audiences in his church.

The "TLH" service was for members still attached to the 1941 volume called "The Lutheran Hymnal." Then there was the "Valpo" audience, which yearned for the "smells and bells" approach to high-church worship popular at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Then there were fans of the pop "CCM" music found in the "Contemporary Christian Music" industry. The "Gen X" crowd wanted its own post-baby boomer music.

The fifth service? It would feature country music.

These struggles are particularly poignant for Missouri Synod Lutherans, who are part of a 2.3 million-member denomination that occupies a tense niche between the larger, more liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the evangelical megachurch marketplace.

It's crucial, said Magness, to understand that the churches linked to Martin Luther are part of the Protestant Reformation, but it's hard to pin a simple "Protestant" label on their approach to piety. Missouri Synod Lutherans, for example, have much in common with evangelicals, especially in terms of biblical authority and conservative morality. However, some parish leaders are not sure they want to make radical changes to modernize their worship services.

Magness, for example, is one of about 30 Missouri Synod musicians known as "cantors," an honorary title once held by Johann Sebastian Bach and many others in Lutheran history. Magness has created "Liturgy Solutions," a company that helps churches of all sizes maintain Lutheran traditions, while mixing old and new music.

"We know that culture is not static," he said. "We want to find the way to proclaim the church's message in ways that remain reverent and appropriate, yet sound fresh today. Otherwise, we'd be singing chants in Latin every Sunday."

The problem is that many pastors resort to forming separate congregations that worship under the same roof -- variations on a "traditional" vs. "contemporary" split. What is "traditional" worship? That's whatever older church leaders were doing before new leaders decided to change what Magness called the "soundtrack" for worship.

Sadly, these worship wars often drive off some faithful members, losses that negate whatever growth followed the changes that were adopted to attract newcomers.

Magness believes that church leaders should attempt to work with all their members to create services that are faithful to the past, but not stuck in the past. A common warning sign that trouble is ahead, he added, is when pastors begin altering the words of crucial prayers and liturgical texts -- even the ancient creeds.

The bottom line, he said, is that dividing a church into separate, even competing, worship services rarely produces growth. At least, that isn't what is happening in the Lutheran congregations he has studied.

"Maybe the saints prefer a place where the real practice of the church -- preaching the Gospel in its truth and purity and administering the sacraments rightly and reverently -- are much, much more important than whether Jack's son gets to play his trap set in church or whether the patriarchal families get to pick all the hymns because they don't want to sing any new songs," said Magness, at a national worship conference.

"I do know this: the congregation that works out these issues the old-fashioned way provides a better confession of 'one Lord, one faith and one baptism' than the congregation that doesn't share the Lord's Supper together."

McChurch history 101

In the beginning, revival preachers used their dynamic voices and dramatic sermons -- framed with entertaining gospel music -- to attract large crowds and to pull sinners into the Kingdom of God. This formula worked in weeklong revivals and, when tried, it started working in regular Sunday services. Big preachers drew big crowds and created bigger and bigger churches. Then along came the big media, which helped create a youth culture that exploded out of the 1950s and into the cultural apocalypse that followed. Church leaders tagged along.

"In the '60s and '70s, we started drinking deep at the well of pop culture and we've been doing it ever since," said church historian John Mark Yeats of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tex. "The goal was to use all of that to reach the young. Evangelicals ended up with own youth subculture."

Big churches created bigger stand-alone youth programs and then children's programs wired to please these media-trained consumers. Youth programs developed their own music, education and preaching, all driven by the style and content of entertainment culture.

Then these young people became adults and began to build and operate their own churches, argue Yeats and his seminary colleague Thomas White, in their sobering book, "Franchising McChurch." For churches that want to grow, the evolving approach to faith that White and Yeats call "theotainment" seems like the only game in town.

"Think of countless children's ministries across the United States. … Most children's Sunday schools quit reading and studying the Bible long ago. Instead, children view cartoon adaptations of the text along with numerous activities that keep them entertained while Mom and Dad worship without distraction," argue White and Yeats, who have worked in local churches, as well as classrooms.

This strategy is cranked up another notch in youth ministries. In many communities, the "religiously oriented youth, savvy shoppers that they are, simply attend the church that has the greatest concentration of entertaining events. … If they buy into Christianity through entertainment, the show must go on to keep them engaged."

This has been going on for decades, noted Yeats. The "Jesus rock" of the '70s moved out of music festivals and into Sunday services. This created a "Contemporary Christian Music" industry that helped churches hip-hop from one cultural style to the next, while striving to find their stylistic niches -- like stations on an FM radio dial. Sanctuaries turned into auditoriums and, finally, into theaters with semi-professional sound systems and the video screens preachers needed to display all of those DVD clips that connected with modern audiences.

That was the '90s. Today's megachurches offer members new options.

Grandmother may attend a service with hymns or -- as Baby Boomers turn 60something -- folk music or soft rock. Pre-teens will bop to Hanna-Montana-esque praise songs in their services, while the young people get harder rock. Over in the "video cafe," evangelical Moms and Dads can sip their lattes while musicians build the right mood until its time for the sermon. That's when the super-skilled preacher's face appears on video monitors in all of the niche services at the same time.

This trend -- multiple, niche services on one campus -- requires changing the traditional meaning of words such as "worship," "church" and "pastor."

But it is one thing for a single megachurch to offer its members a "have it your way" approach to church life at one location, said Yeats. The next step is for the "McChurch" model to evolve into "McDenomination," with the birth of national and even global chains of church franchises united, not by centuries of history and doctrine, but by the voice, face, beliefs and talents of a single preacher, backed by a team of multimedia professionals.

This trend is "very free market" and "also very American," he said.

"In these franchise operations, you don't say you're a Southern Baptist or a Methodist or a Presbyterian or whatever," Yeats explained. "No, you say you attend the local branch of so-and-so's church. The whole thing is held together by one man. That's the brand name, right there. ...

"If your church joins one of these operations you get the video feed, you get the media, you get the music and, ultimately, you get to listen to the dynamic man himself, instead of your own sub-standard preacher. It's a whole new way of doing church."

FM radio reality in church

The clock is ticking and soon Jeff Crandall while face the challenge of selecting the right music for the Christmas services at High Desert Church.

This will be tricky, because Christmas is what the 70-member staff at this megachurch calls a "federal" event. This means that these services will unite worshippers from the three radically different services that are held week after week at this booming congregation in Victorville, Calif., about 90 miles outside of Los Angeles.

"Christmas may be the only time when people want to hear traditional music, no matter what age they are," said Crandall, the church's 46-year-old "worship pastor" and the former drummer in a rock band called the Altar Boys. "Even kids who are totally into hard rock what to hear a few carols, which makes it easier to put together a service that pleases everybody. ... We try to do the same thing during Holy Week and Easter."

In recent decades, many churches have been shattered by the intergenerational strife that researchers call the "worship wars." If you want to split a national church, change its teachings about sexuality or salvation. But if you want to split a local church, you toss the hymnal, hire a drummer, unleash the teen-agers or make some other musical change that rocks the pews.

But High Desert Church is the kind of church that has turned this equation around. Its goal is to build a multi-flock ministry that unapologetically offers all rock, all the time, but with bands that appeal to different packs of young people, as well as bands for believers from an earlier g-g-g-generation or two.

Now, this nondenominational flock is poised to become the poster church for this FM-radio-dial approach to worship, after being dissected in the hallowed pages of the New York Times.

"When you start a church, you don't decide who you're going to reach and then pick a music style," senior pastor Tom Mercer told America's newspaper of record. "You pick a music style, and that determines who's going to come."

On one level, the music divides this church. But on another level, the music is at the heart of worship services that create zones of comfort for people who have been raised in a culture in which consumers define themselves by their musical choices.

Thus, High Desert Church offers a "Classic" service for Baby Boomers and others who came of age during the "Jesus rock" explosion in the '60s and '70s. This service offers a softer brand of acoustic rock -- think Byrds or the Eagles -- that is easier on the delicate and even damaged ears of older worshippers, said Crandall.

Meanwhile, other musicians focus on the "Harbor" service for people between the ages of 30 and 50. It features the kind of soaring, inspiring rock that most people would associate with U2 and classic bands from the 1980s. Then the "Seven" service cranks things up another notch, with what Crandall described as a "dark" and "moody" mix of postmodern music for the young.

The bottom line: Church leaders use different technology to create different music for different generations who choose to attend different services.

The music unites and the music divides. The challenge for church leadership, Crandall said, is to unite these flocks around a common vision when doing evangelism and missions -- primarily through 18-person cell groups that focus on fellowship and prayer. Then there are those "federal" events that take place several times a year.

There are still Protestant and even Roman Catholic churches that are trying to create "blended" worship services that appeal to all ages at the same time. "Blended" is the term used to describe a mix of traditional hymns and rock music, switching back and forth between a pipe organ and those electric guitars.

Their intentions are good, said Crandall, but the results are guaranteed to offend people whose musical tastes are simply not compatible. Thus, he believes that "blended" services drive people away rather than pulling them together.

"This is reality," he said. "Everything is about the music. When you go to the mall, you can even tell what kind of people are supposed to be shopping in the different stores just by listening to the music that is playing. Can you imagine kids wanting to shop in a store that is playing the music that their parents listen to? No way."

Catholic choirs, alive or dead?

Lucy E. Carroll has never actually attended a Catholic Mass in which a cantor belted out, "He'll be coming 'round the altar when he comes! He'll be coming 'round the altar when he comes!" At least, that hasn't happened yet.

"I know that some people have used Stephen Foster music in a Mass," said the musical director at the Carmelite monastery in Philadelphia. "I've heard about people using the melody from the waltz scene in 'Beauty and the Beast' for the 'Gloria.' And I've heard more than one report about people singing the 'Agnus Dei,' which means 'Lamb of God,' to that old song 'Send in the Clowns.' "

In many parishes, she said, pop songs and the modern hymnody inspired by them have all but replaced traditional hymns and, heaven forbid, ancient chants and actual Catholic anthems.

This is old news. What many outsiders may not realize is that many Catholic parishes have, in the past decade or two, followed the lead of Protestant megachurches and now feature plugged-in "praise bands" and worship-team singers -- complete with solo microphones -- who sway in the Sunday-morning spotlights.

Legions of Catholics like this music, admitted Carroll. But many do not, including some younger Catholics who are drawn to candles, incense, sacred art and the mysterious melodies of ancient chants. In many parishes, she said, it may be time -- as shocking as this may sound -- to start a choir.

Carroll is an unrepentant choir director. She believes there is more to being a Catholic musician than the ability to play some guitar chords while singing, "Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night." She can speak words like "Victoria" and "Palestrina" without flinching.

"Most people who lead music in our churches today are not trained to be liturgical musicians," said Carroll, an adjunct professor at the Westminster Choir College at Princeton University. "They do not understand that there is music that is sacred in nature and then there is music that is secular in nature. There is Christian music that would be totally acceptable at a revival service or a youth rally, but it is not ... acceptable in a Catholic Mass."

What should someone do if they want to start a choir? Carroll recently published a list of tips in the conservative Adoremus Bulletin (www.adoremus.org) that included:

* Obtain the full support of the priest, including a pledge that he will praise the choir from the pulpit and cooperate with its efforts.

* Find a choir director and an accompanist. It helps to have money to hire someone and the person must understand worship as well as musical notes on a page. Carroll suggests that parish leaders search at local high schools and colleges, perhaps even seeking out talented students seeking practical experience.

* The best way to find singers is by personal contact. Do not, she emphasized, advertise with phrases such as "Do you like to sing in the shower?" The goal is to find choir singers, not soloists whose volume control is cranked up to "water buffalo." Avoid people who say, "I'll be there for Mass, but not rehearsals."

* Start slow, perhaps singing at the same Mass once a month. Resist the temptation to hide your fledgling choir under a wave of instrumental sound. Train the singers to handle some traditional, a cappella (voices alone) music.

* Start with unison music then let the choir sing "antiphonally," with women singing one line and men the next. Then attempt canons and rounds, such as the anonymous "Dona Nobis Pacem" that congregations have enjoyed for generations. Eventually, the director will learn who can sing soprano, alto, tenor and bass. At that point, the choir can try two-part chants and then easy anthems from a traditional Catholic hymnbook or by modern composers who write sacred music for use in Mass.

The goal is for the choir to become a close-knit family of musicians who lead the church family in worship, said Carroll. She is convinced that soloists with microphones inevitably turn into performers.

"We have to get away from the rock bands and the folks groups and the polka players and everybody else," she said. "We need to stop entertaining our people and get back to our own worship tradition -- which is leading our people in the worship of God."

Postmodern Celtic Baptists

The first thing people do after entering the quiet sanctuary is pause at a table to light prayer candles for friends and loved ones, the tiny flames adding to the glow of nearby candle trees.

The ministers wear oat-colored, hooded robes tied at the waist with ropes and guide their flock through ancient prayers, a litany of confession and silent meditations marked by a series of bells. Hymns are accompanied by an ensemble that includes fiddle, acoustic guitar, wind chimes, pennywhistles, a Bodhran and even bagpipes.

This coming Sunday is the day before the feast of St. Patrick.

Thus, worshippers at Rivermont Avenue Baptist Church will sing the great prayer of Ireland's missionary bishop: "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me. ... I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, through a confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation."

This is not your typical Southern Baptist service.

Nevertheless, this Celtic service is held every Sunday at this historic church in Lynchburg, Va. The goal is to use ancient rituals to touch postmodern souls.

"Postmodern people -- like Baptists in general -- like to take some of the old and mix it up with some of the new and then put it all together. We're comfortable with the unusual juxtapositions that may occur when you do that," said Karen Swallow Prior, who selects and reads many of the rite's Celtic prayers. She is an English professor at nearby Liberty University.

"We don't think that what we're doing is getting back to the ancient ways. We think that we're using elements of the past in ways that make sense to people who are alive today. The goal is to create something new."

In the lingo of Southern Baptist life, Rivermont is known as a "moderate," or even progressive, congregation. In addition to the Celtic service, it also offers the plugged-in, energetic contemporary worship common in "seeker-friendly" congregations across America. The bottom line: Different kinds of people worship in different ways.

The contemporary service is larger and the pews are filled with Baby Boomers who have become the established, middle-aged core of the congregation. For them, pop praise choruses and a chatty atmosphere have become normal. What was once "modern" is now strangely "traditional."

Meanwhile, said Prior, the Celtic service is attracting a unique blend of young adults, who are drawn by its beauty and mysticism, and the elderly, who appreciate peace and quiet. Church leaders refer to this as a gathering of the "pre-moderns and the postmoderns." What was once "traditional" is now strangely "innovative."

"How will the postmodern church worship?", asked Chad Hall of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, writing at www.coolchurches.com. "One thing we know about postmoderns is that they are extremely experiential. That is, they learn, grow, develop and commit based on their own experience with truth not according to someone else's encounter or someone else's retelling of an encounter."

Postmodern believers want to use all of their senses, stressed Hall. They want smells and bells. They want to see icons and statues, as well as drama and digital clips from movies. They look for God in nature, as well as scripture. They want to encounter God, not mere words about God.

But this doesn't mean they want to change their beliefs. The faithful at Rivermont Avenue remain steadfastly Baptist, said music minister Wayne Bulson. While they use elements of ancient liturgy, they believe that the Irish Bannock bread is still bread and the grape juice is still grape juice. They are embracing symbols, not sacraments.

"People want a sense of the ancient, but they still want something that they feel is appropriate to their lives, today," said Bulson. "I mean, we're still Baptists. We're not Catholic or Orthodox or anything else. ... We're not pushing for Baptist monasteries. What we're trying to do is find out what will be meaningful to our people, what will help them experience God in their lives.

"We're not proud. We're willing to borrow things from all kinds of traditions, as long as they work for us."

Edgy Orthodoxy 4 Seekers

One of the Rev. Dwight Moody's favorite perks as dean of the Georgetown College chapel is that he is free to spend most Sundays exploring other churches in Lexington, Ky.

That's how the Baptist preacher ended up in St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church in a cloud of incense, trying to figure out what the worshippers were chanting, why they rarely sat down and when the 9 o'clock service was going to end so that the 10 o'clock service could begin.

Everything was a mystery.

"When the main service ended they just kept going and had two more. ...I couldn't figure out what was going on," said Moody. "It was the most in-your-face, retrograde old stuff you could imagine. What fascinated me was that this was the TOTAL antithesis of everything that is happening in the contemporary church."

But he looked around and realized he wasn't the only visitor in the multi-ethnic crowd. Afterwards, a cluster of ex-Methodists helped him get oriented. Moody had toured Orthodox churches in Jerusalem and elsewhere, but had never actually attended a service.

It was while he was driving home that he had a crazy idea.

During his Sunday adventures, Moody has seen his share of megachurches offering "seeker-friendly services" for media-soaked Americans. These are the ones with shiny auditoriums that seat 5,000 or so people, complete with rock-concert quality sound and lights. Many have been shaped by the work of consulting firms that specialize in church design and marketing.

Moody thought to himself: How would a church-growth professional critique the smells, bells and sacraments he had just witnessed?

Before long, he had written a satirical "Survival Guide" for an imaginary "St. Pachomius Byzantine Orthodox Church."

The church's name, for example, was simply not acceptable today.

Moody's imaginary consultant was blunt: "Nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- understands any part of your name. (I actually commissioned a survey.) Most assumed you were Jewish, others thought of a travel agency and one was sure 'Byzantine' was a link to al-Qaeda.

"My recommendation: Be bold! Embrace the third millennium! Take a new name, one derived from the old but in a clever sort of way. Our people suggest you utilize the word BOX: how about 'p-BOX'? Edgy, isn't it, but evocative and mysterious, as well. Remember how United States Steel Corporation became USXX? Brilliant: strong but subtle, distinctive and vague."

The sanctuary would need a makeover, starting with the exit of all those "painted panels of old people." Besides, the icons were taking up space that would be needed for large video screens for movie clips and pop-rock hymnody. The firm suggested replacing the incense with "some very nice potpourri planters in a selection of scents: Miracle Moonlight, Oceans of Peace and Farm Fresh Faith."

The a cappella quartet of overweight male chanters would have to go, as well.

"Modern, younger people -- those you must seek to appease, I mean, attract -- are drawn toward drum sets and speakers," he added. "Make them very visible, even if you actually utilize sound tracks (sample enclosed)."

And Holy Communion? Adding a Starbucks would be a better idea. If the church insisted on serving bread and wine at the altar, "research indicates that videos shown during the lag time are well received."

The article was published in several Kentucky newspapers and then in the Christian Century, a mainline weekly. Moody was relieved to learn that Orthodox readers had gotten the joke and were rolling in the aisles. Well, some were rolling in the aisles. Many Orthodox Christians would not have aisles in which to roll, since their sanctuaries are traditionally built without the modern amenities called pews.

Then members of other churches began to respond. Moody hit a nerve with his backhanded tribute to a flock that was clinging to 2000 years worth of roots.

"You see, I was not making fun of the Orthodox," he said. "I was making fun of the whole contemporary church scene. ... There are people in all kinds of traditional churches who are being told, 'If you don't change, you're going to die. If you don't buy into the latest fads, you're history.' Ministers are under incredible pressure to strip away anything that's connected to the past. Well, some people have had enough."