Monday, February 08, 2010

8 FEB 10: Fleeing the Wrath to Come?

The biggest church in Columbus put on a party for the big football game Sunday evening. But it was for teenagers - and for some reason, it ended at halftime. Maybe organizers wanted the young people to avoid seeing too much skin from the musicians.

I found out about the Super Bowl party for teens Sunday, when I made a surprise trip to Cascade Hills Church. A new wave of e-mail accusations has come my way in recent weeks about the pastor. Sometimes I wonder if the accusations are someone's curious form of evangelizing -- trying to get me in the door and become saved.

The latest accusations against Pastor Bill Purvis come from a person or group called "The Alliance." As usual, the accuser is anonymous. At least the anti- gambling task force in Alabama has the courage to hold public news conferences, without wearing hoods....

But anyway: one major accusation was ruled out-of-bounds for this blog, because it dealt with a death [31 Jan]. But two follow-up e-mails from The Alliance were different in their attack:

By the way after you talked with him after a service a year or two ago [7 Oct 07], he came to the back and said you were "frog looking" and you looked like a geek...among other things.

I assume you no longer address serious topics, I did not realize you had made that transition to exclusive humor. The hilarious part is the joke that this man has made of Christianity in this town. I find it very funny. The other funny thing is how so many, like yourself, actually think this man gives a cr*p about biblical principles, scripture, or anything else that does not benefit him directly. Oh, and by the way, you have no chance of talking to him about anything. His staff, has been given explicit orders not to let you near him. Also, he leaves the stage before the service is dismissed and is escorted by an armed guard to his car and is out of the parking lot before the closing prayer. You are known by the staff and we are not to allow you, or anyone else for that matter to get to this man.

Also, he has gained weight, but not as much as it might appear. That is a bullet proof vest under his suit.

The definition of a "serious topic" is open to interpretation. For some people, a seven-figure compensation package for a corporate executive is fun and games.

To see if Pastor Bill Purvis really is trying to avoid a humor blogger at all costs, I quietly went to Sunday's 11:00 a.m. service at Cascade Hills Church. Long-time blog readers will recall I worshiped there two years ago for several months [30 Aug 08]. Little has changed since I moved on -- except for the additional large TV screen on stage, as if four others around it aren't enough.

If the Cascade Hills Church staff had explicit orders to watch out for me, it wasn't evident Sunday. From the moment I walked in the door, no one stopped me or seemed to follow me around. And I even helped with the "frog-looking" part, by wearing a dark green jacket.

If no one is allowed to "get to" Bill Purvis, you never would have known it from Sunday's service. It was a baby dedication day, and parents handed over four youngsters to the pastor - after reportedly meeting with him in a separate reception. No Columbus Police officers stood around the stage, to frisk relatives coming forward with cameras.

(I've been to a worship service in Columbus where guards stood at the edge of the platform during a sermon -- and Jeremiah Wright is about as far-removed from Bill Purvis as ministers come.)

Pastor Bill Purvis quoted mentor and motivational speaker John Maxwell as calling Cascade Hills "across the board... the most balanced church that I know of." It appeared that way Sunday as well - as both the main floor and balcony were full.

But to get to the accusations: Yes, Pastor Bill Purvis "leaves the stage before the service is dismissed." I've seen him do it many times, and he did it again Sunday. He went to the main floor and took a seat, during the closing announcements....

But the Cascade Hills Pastor did NOT leave the worship center before Sunday's "closing prayer." In fact, he gave the last prayer of the service - and NOT on a video screen, standing next to his car.

Bill Purvis had a front-row seat to watch three baptisms at the end of the 11:00 a.m. service. Another Cascade Hills staff minister did the actual baptizing - and never once were the three candidates asked publicly if they were on the "Pastor's Prayer Partner" list.

With the baptisms over, Pastor Bill Purvis stood up and left the worship center through a back door. I sat in the middle of the audience to stay as incognito as possible, and couldn't walk over to him due to the crowd. But then, no one stopped to shake the pastor's hand - and no one announced it was forbidden, as if he hadn't ascended to heaven yet.

Two older women sitting near Bill Purvis's chair told me he might be doing counseling, and should be coming right back. But he never did come back - and for that matter, no armed guard came up to me demanding to review my sermon notes for accuracy.

After a couple of minutes, I was able to chat with the Cascade Hills Associate Pastor. Gene Boyd has worked with Bill Purvis since 1992 - but he needed me to repeat the phrase "Blog of Columbus." Boyd didn't recognize me at all. So if they put up wanted posters in the ministerial offices, I fooled him.

Gene Boyd denied Bill Purvis goes to his car by armed guard at the end of worship services. He explained the Pastor slips away on Sundays to join his wife, family and guests for dinner at home. Debbie Purvis usually attends the Saturday night service - and apparently she can get the message the first time, while the worship singers need it three times.

Gene Boyd also denied Bill Purvis is wearing a bulletproof vest when he preaches. But he admitted Cascade Hills Church uses Columbus Police officers for security. This actually started several years ago - way back when officers needed the extra money, before Jim Wetherington became Mayor and made them all happy.

Gene Boyd admitted Cascade Hills Church is the subject of all sorts of rumors. For example, someone spread the false claim that parking outside the building costs five dollars. Maybe Fourth Street Baptist Church should have taken this approach, instead of going to the city to ban parking along Fifth Street on Sundays.

As for that last accusation in the e-mail: Pastor Bill Purvis said during Sunday's sermon he's lost 26 pounds during a recent diet. Maybe he's wearing suit coats during services nowadays because he can fit inside them again.

Will all this satisfy The Alliance? Don't worry - I know better than that by now. The person or group probably will demand I go back to Cascade Hills Church next weekend. Not to listen to the service, but to stand outside side doors and watch for a minister walking with his chest to the back of a police officer.

One other e-mail is being held until we can make calls about it. So let's check some weekend headlines you may have missed....

+ Harris County sheriff's officers arrested two people on charges of stealing big-screen TV sets from villas at Callaway Gardens. If you don't think "Farrar's is fairer," this is NOT the way to get revenge.

+ Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson complained to TV stations about plans to close the Columbus state crime lab. Robertson told WTVM the state plans to keep labs open in Cleveland and Trion. Maybe it isn't really politics - maybe it's a matter of drier air at high altitudes, to protect evidence.

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue called for several state positions to become appointed, instead of elected. He wants to end elections for state Labor Commissioner, Insurance Commissioner, School Superintendent and.... hey, wait a minute! Has the Governor forgotten something? Those last two positions are held by fellow Republicans right now.

(Isn't this proposal amazing? Georgia's Governor gets a rare chance to appoint an interim Secretary of State, and suddenly the critic of "King Rat" thinks he's Perdue the potentate.)

+ An Edison, Georgia fisherman set a state record at Lake Walter George. He caught a blue catfish weighing more than 80 pounds - and hopefully didn't bruise himself black and blue in the process.

+ Roundball Saturday Night (tm) found Georgia's men surprising nationally-ranked Vanderbilt 72-58. Yet the Bulldogs still aren't playing .500 basketball - so those plans to renovate Stegeman Coliseum could be designed with the gymnastics team in mind.

+ Instant Message to the Pittsburgh Penguins: My Sunday "best bet" looked perfect when I walked in the door. But you lost that 4-1 lead, as if Democrats inspired Washington to try another "power grab."

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